Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Report: More Support Needed for Virginia Foster Kids

An Annie E. Casey Foundation report finds the number of kids entering foster care because of neglect increased from 29% in 2006 to 48% in 2021. But, the report finds fewer kids entered foster care because of behavioral issues during the same period. (Adobe Stock)

BALTIMORE — A recent report finds foster kids in Virginia and the U.S. need better support to transition out of the foster-care system.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Fostering Youth Transitions report finds 57% of kids in Virginia foster care will age out instead of finding a permanent home.

This is only slightly higher than the national average of 52% of kids aging out of foster care.

Cassie Baudean — director of Policy and Strategic Operations with the Children’s Home Society of Virginia — said one of the ways to improve support for foster kids is to build up the often short-staffed workforce.

“In Virginia we have, typically, a high turnover rate for caseworkers in the local departments of social services,” said Baudean. “They have — oftentimes — high, unmanageable caseloads. Their pay is very very low, their hours are very very long, and the work that they do is so important but also very stressful.”

She added that bolstering this workforce can lead to more individualized support for kids in foster care.

A 2019 survey about Virginia’s foster-care system found 71% of local departments said they were having great difficulty recruiting case workers.

Along with a lack of qualified candidates, the other most common reason was inadequate compensation.

Another finding of the report is how federally funded programs to help youths transition from foster care are underutilized.

Todd Lloyd — senior policy associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation — noted that these could be used to ensure foster kids have a stable environment, to help them transition to higher education.

“We’ve seen that when young people have extended in foster care after the age of 18, that they have a much greater rate of education attainment,” said Lloyd. “So, we really encourage states to consider ways that they can encourage young people to remain in foster care after the age of 18 If they don’t have a permanent family.”

The report finds in 2022, of the more than 444,000 kids in foster care, 77% didn’t receive any transition services once they aged out. But, this number has declined slightly since 2016.

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