The new annual HHS Child Welfare Outcomes report 2010 through 2013 has been released and the summary continues to highlight a greater focus on youth coming into care at 12 or older as an area that could be strengthened.  In short they said:

“Moderate correlations were found between the measure of reentry into foster care and the age of children entering foster care. Overall, states with a relatively high percentage of children entering foster care who were age 12 or older at the time of entry also had a relatively high percentage of children reentering foster care. Because of the identified association between older youth and foster care reentry rate, states may want to consider what targeted strategies and services they could provide to youth and their families so that teenagers would be less likely to come back into foster care.”

The annual outcomes report is based on data collected as a result of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) mandated by Congress. It includes findings from the measures used to evaluate states which are based on the seven national outcomes. This report publishes all the data state by state as well as offers up national overview and observations.

More generally the report said,

“National performance for the recurrence of maltreatment declined between 2010 and 2013, while maltreatment of children in foster care fluctuated within this time period. For both of these safety measures, it is important to keep in mind that, while the percentages of maltreatment may be numerically small, these events have serious implications for the safety and well-being of children. Children who experience maltreatment, either at home or in foster care, can experience a wide variety of consequences including physical and mental health challenges and issues with cognitive development and academic achievement. Furthermore, maltreatment recurrence is associated with an increase in trauma symptoms in children.”

States with a high percentage of foster care reentries also had a higher percentage of children entering foster care who were adolescents (age 12 or older) The number of youth in foster care, broken down by age, is shown for each state on the State Data Pages in chapter VI of this report.

The issues here could offer some support to the current draft of the Families First Act which would allow states, at least in limited fashion, to provide some post-reunification services for the more than 51 percent of children that leave foster care to be reunified.  The bill would allow states to draw down title IV-E funds for mental health, substance abuse and some in-home services for up to 12 months as long as services met some rigor in terms of evidence.  Services would be limited to 12 months but a child reunified could be considered a “candidate for foster care” which is the trigger for access to services funding.

The report finds moderate correlations between timeliness of reunification and foster care entry rates. Generally speaking, states with relatively high foster care entry rates also had relatively high percentages of reunifications occurring in less than 12 months. The report states that,

“One consideration for this correlation is whether states that generally tend to take more children into foster care, may be taking in more children from families with less severe concerns, making rapid reunifications more feasible. Another consideration is that states with lower foster care entry rates might have more in-home services in place to support families and prevent entry. This could result in the higher needs children entering foster care, which also may extend the lengths of stay for those states.”

Consistent with findings from prior years, states continue to struggle with finding permanent homes for children with disabilities and, as noted, for children who entered foster care when they were older than age 12. This has been a consistent finding of the Child Welfare Outcomes Reports, and it suggests that special efforts are still needed to eliminate some of the disparities in the achievement of permanency for these two groups of children.