Advocates Call for Eliminating Group Homes for Foster Kids

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
A report from the group "Listen to Us" finds that abused children too often are traumatized further while in foster care. Photo Credit: Wallyir / Morguefile

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Group homes and large institutional foster-care settings should be phased out – that’s the recommendation of a recent report that surveyed youths in foster care.

The youths interviewed for the “Away from Home” report complained of feeling vulnerable to further abuse, with little privacy or personal connection.

Report co-author Sixto Cancel, founder and CEO of the nonprofit “Think of Us”, said placement with relatives often is the best option, as long as the child is consulted.

“Let’s actually ask young people who they would like to be placed with,” said Cancel. “Let’s ask the family to step up. We are still not actually maximizing aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, grandpa.”

California, which has 60,000 children in foster care, has been moving away from congregate care for years. The County Welfare Directors’ Association recommends more funding and that priority be given to recruiting new foster families.

The state also committed $100 million in the most recent budget to help counties build facilities for foster youths with complex mental-health needs.

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez is vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation. She applauded states like California, which have a dedicated ombudsman to handle allegations of abuse or neglect within the foster system.

“The young people who were brave enough to make themselves loud and clear through the Away from Home report are telling us that now really is the time to hear them,” said Gasca-Gonzalez. “They want us to hear their truth, they want us to heed their wisdom, and they want us to help them heal.”

A 2020 study in the Journal of Children and Youth Services shows that an average of one in five foster-care kids in the state will end up in congregate living. And according to the Children’s Law Center, only 53% graduate high school on time.

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