In Their Best Interest: Placing Kids in Families From the Start

Posted May 19, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog intheirbestinterest figure2 2015

Research shows that fam­i­lies are essen­tial to a child’s healthy devel­op­ment — and that even chil­dren who can­not live with their own par­ents because of abuse and neglect can devel­op nur­tur­ing, ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ships with rel­a­tives, close fam­i­ly friends or car­ing fos­ter par­ents who step in as care­givers. Addi­tion­al­ly, fed­er­al law requires that chil­dren removed from their homes are placed in the least restric­tive set­ting pos­si­ble — the set­ting most like a family.

Yet a recent U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices report found that 4 out of 10 chil­dren in group place­ments had no men­tal health diag­no­sis, behav­ioral prob­lem or med­ical need that might war­rant such a restric­tive set­ting. While res­i­den­tial treat­ment is a ben­e­fi­cial, short-term option for the small per­cent­age of young peo­ple whose clin­i­cal needs can’t be met in a home set­ting, its goal should be to help kids heal and pre­pare them to return to live safe­ly in a fam­i­ly as soon as possible.

What’s more, unnec­es­sary group place­ments come at con­sid­er­able cost to tax­pay­ers; plac­ing a child in a group place­ment costs 7 to 10 times more than plac­ing him in a family.

Read more in Every Kid Needs a Fam­i­ly, a KIDS COUNT pol­i­cy report.

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