Creating Permanency: Foster Care Awareness Month

As we know from both experience and research, foster care can be as equally traumatizing as the abuse or neglect. Being removed from your family, placed with strangers and made to change schools are extremely difficult. Still, some children and youth who experienced foster care say it was beneficial. Some say it was the first time they ever knew structure or routine. Some return to school and get the additional supports they need to be successful. It’s not all bad. Regardless, it should never be a long-term solution.

Now, not all of the children and youth we serve at Child Advocates – Denver CASA are in foster care. Some live at home with one or even both parents or guardians as the Dependency and Neglect case reaches resolution and the children and youth find permanency.* Yet as many as 70 percent of the cases we serve are in foster care. This is higher than other CASA programs that tend to be somewhere between 50 and 60 percent.

According to the Colorado Data Matters  site, there were 772 children and youth in foster care between October and December 2014 in the city and county of Denver. During that same time, 185 children and youth entered foster care while 216 children and youth exited foster care. 54.7 percent (406) were in foster care for less than 12 months. We can assume that many of these cases are the EPP cases and that everyone is doing a good job with finding permanency quickly. Yet the “average” length of stay is more than a year:

  • 21 percent (166) between 12 and 23 months.
  • 7.1 percent (56) between 13 and 35 months.
  • 17.2 percent (129) had been in longer than 36 months.

One of the most important points of discussion happening at the state level is that too many kids in Colorado are placed within group homes or are in institutional settings. In fact, Colorado, as percent of all the kids in out of home placements, has the highest rate. 35 percent  of all children being raised by a county department are within a group home or an institution. Now, some people contest this statistic, noting that Colorado is unique in that human service numbers also include juvenile numbers. This is because the entire juvenile system is managed by human services and not a separate department of corrections as occurs in other states. Yet Colorado is not alone in this model and those states are not number one. Something is still there.

This has caught the attention of a number of people. Denver, in fact, recently had an event to note their direct work on this. The event was at the court house and both the Denver Juvenile Courts and the Denver Department of Human Services spoke about the need to lower this kind of placement. I applaud these efforts and look forward to creating a future for kids where there are more family like options.

* For people not familiar with this term, it comes from the idea that foster care is a temporary solution. Children should never be raised within the “system”. Because of this, the goal is described as “permanency”.