New report touts Montana’s efforts to place children in a family setting
A new report issued today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Montana’s child protection agency is one of the best in the nation when it comes to placing children with foster or next-of-kin families.
The Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success report shows that Montana at least 90 percent of the time is successful at placing a child in a family setting, just a few points below the highest ranking of 94 percent. The national average, based on 2013 statistics, is 84 percent.
Governor Steve Bullock said the report’s findings are significant because it shows Montana understands the best way to help children who have been removed from their home is to place them in a family setting, which is one of the most important steps for children entering the child welfare system. In Montana, more than a thousand children a year are removed from their home due to abuse and neglect.
“Every kid needs a family,” he said. “Montana children deserve to be put in the best possible situation both for their safety, and so they can thrive. This report shows that we going the extra mile to work with children and families to give them the best chance at success. Research shows kids do best when they are in a family setting, surrounded by people they know.”
Department of Public Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) administrator Sarah Corbally said Montana’s high ranking in this category can be expected to climb even further due to new initiatives the agency launched that are helping children find permanent homes.
Just this year, CFSD created an Intensive Service Unit (ISU) made up of child protection specialists within the agency to help youth living in congregate care find permanent homes. These staff received extensive training, including training on the importance of finding permanency and lifelong connections with family for every child in foster care. Within the ISU, workers take some of the most challenging cases and give them a fresh start bolstered by the belief that, with the right support, every child can be successful in a family.
Another initiative is the Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being Roundtables that bring staff, community providers and others together to create permanency for youth not in family placement. “By using this collaborative model, we will be able to increase the percentage of children placed with families even more,” she said.
In fact, this new model has already paid dividends. Corbally said one child who had multiple placements was recently adopted after a recent roundtable was held and the youth was successfully placed with a family.
“I think this success story shows what can happen when people come together to find solutions,” she said. “It’s the best thing we can do for our kids. Children in family placements are more able to participate fully in their schools and their communities. They have that sense of belonging and support that matters to each of us and contributes to our long term success in life. Our goal is for each child in the Montana foster care system to become a healthy and productive adult who contributes to the success of our economy and our next generation. Helping this particular group of children who are not placed in families is a big step in that direction.”
In Montana, foster children are placed in emergency shelter care, a group home or a high level residential psychiatric facility about 9 percent of the time. Corbally said her agency is working with communities and providers to bring that number down even lower.
The report notes that group home placements can cost up to 10 times the amount it takes to place a child with relatives or a foster family. Corbally says CFSD has been successful in this area due to strong collaboration between the state and its providers. “Providers have done a great job ensuring that children stay in this type of non-family placement only as long as necessary,” she said. “They have been very supportive.”
The full report can be found at on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website at http://www.aecf.org/