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Politics & Government

Fewer Foster Kids in PA, but What About Abuse Cases? Wrap_Mary Wilson_SOC.mp3

A new report shows fewer children in Pennsylvania are in foster care but the state should not expect the trend to continue.

Joan Benso, head the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children non-profit, which issued the State of Child Welfare study, said the commonwealth's foster care population has been declining over the last seven years.  Benso said it's good news, but the data shows the decline rate may have slowed.   

"I think the really encouraging signs of our system, though, are that were working with larger numbers of families by the delivery of in-home services to help deal with the issues of emergent abuse and neglect or issues that aren'’t quite so serious that require a child be removed from their home because of serious safety concerns," Benso said.

Since 2009, the study collected a full year's worth of data on things like the number of children entering and leaving foster care, how many children return to foster care after leaving, and how closely foster children are monitored by the state.  But, Benso added foster care will always be necessary.

"Pennsylvania’s getting better.  We have safely reduced the number of children living in foster care in Pennsylvania," Benso said  "That'’s a very important thing.  Living in foster care is not what we want for the childhood of any child in this state or any other state."

The study also shows data on reported and investigated child abuse, but Benso said the state'’s progress on that front is harder to gauge because – an increase in child abuse reports does not necessarily mean more children are being protected.

The optimal situation for any foster care child is that he or she is in a family’'s home setting.  But Benso said the state’'s high rate of children in group homes or institutions makes Pennsylvania an outlier.

"It'’s particularly bad data if you look at the number of teenagers who are living in group homes and institutions." Benso said.

She said the state needs to do a better job of recruiting private citizens to become foster parents to older children.