LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John

How did we do raising our 9,187 children last year


Last year we took part in raising 9,187 children. That is the total number of Children in Need of Care who were in out of home placements during the last fiscal year. Since the state produces data on a fiscal year basis our year runs from July 1 through June 30. Children in Need of Care are those who are awarded that designation by a juvenile judge. The Secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) is given custody and most are then placed in foster care. The Secretary is acting on our behalf. The goal for these children is to keep them safe, find a safe and permanent home for them as quickly as possible and maintain their well-being.Safety Children in our custody are reported as being safe. 99.91% of children in out of home placement last year were reported as safe; 98.6% of children were safe after leaving foster care. Nationwide child welfare systems have shown that they do keep children safe. This is generally measured by counting the confirmed or substantiated incidents of abuse or neglect. Kansas has a rather high level of proof needed to substantiate a case resulting in only 8% of all investigations of abuse or neglect being substantiated. This low rate suggests that the safety measure may not be the best indicator of safety. Permanency This is child welfare jargon for children returning to a safe home, being adopted or having someone else assume guardianship of the child. SRS has set a standard that 76.2% of children entering foster care will return home within 12 months. Last year they missed the mark. Only 57.3% of children returned home in that time period.If children are returned home too quickly they frequently return to foster care in a short period of time. In Kansas only 6% of children returned to care within 12 months of going home. This is a low rate and a good outcome. This probably can be attributed to the child welfare contractors having to assume the cost of foster care when a child returns to foster care within 12 months. This has been an effective provision of the contracts encouraging the contractors to provide support and services to families after reunification. SRS reports that last year 712 or 727 (both numbers appear in their data) children found new families through adoption. This compares with 715 the year before. SRS has a standard that 32% of children adopted will achieve this within 24 months of entering foster care. Last year the rate was 30.7%. With 871 children awaiting adoption one wonders if these numbers couldn't be improved.Someone, usually an extended family member, assuming the guardianship of a child is another way that children achieve a safe and permanent home. Last year 330 children left SRS custody through guardianship. This has become a well accepted way for children to achieve a safe and permanent home. Research has shown that these arrangements have many benefits because the people assuming guardianship are usually grandparents or aunts or uncles who are well known to the children.Well-being Many experts suggest that education, health and mental health are what ought to be considered as child well-being. As a parent I know that these were important considerations in raising my children. How are they doing in school? How is there physical health? How is their mental health?Unfortunately we know nothing about the well-being of children in SRS custody or those leaving. This is disturbing. Imagine a parent not knowing how their children are doing in school. Isn't that neglect? In general we know that children entering foster care are not doing well educationally. That is even more reason to make reporting educational status as a priority. Youth leaving care because they reach the age of majority is another group for which well-being is important. These are youth who did not return home, were not adopted and did not have someone assume guardianship. SRS reports that 433 youth fit this description last year. Nationally, research on these youth has shown that they do not do well as adults. They enter foster care with many problems and leave with few resources and few prospects. In recent years these youth have more opportunities to attend college and maintain their health care after leaving care. Yet, we don't know how many are leaving care with a high school education, work experience or a medical card. You can look at the date yourself at http://www.srskansas.org/CFS/datareports08.html


bearded_gnome 9 years, 6 months ago

Unfortunately we know nothing about the well-being of children in SRS custody or those leaving. This is disturbing.Imagine a parent not knowing how their children are doing in school. Isn't that neglect? In general we know that children entering foster care are not doingwell educationally. That is even more reason to make reporting educational status as a priority.---John,first, do you mean to say here that Kansas has no figures on current and past foster care kids' school functioning, involvement with juvinile authorities, health status, or successful graduation from high school? I do know that "mental health" figures could be much more complicated, incomplete and unreliable. in 2008, that's absolutely incredible. if that is the case, I think the LJWorld editors shouldn't relegate this to a personal (yes I know you're CJA) blog! the failure to properly track these kids ought to be front page material! the kid, jason rose, who burned down the apartments, was just "graduated" out of the foster system. so, your story here is very important to all of us!it ain't a mystery why children entering foster care are doing poorly in school: disrupted life; abuse; poor parenting if at all; concern for their own safety; etc. finally, I want to note: in these cases, the kids are typically the victim, but they're the ones who have to leave their familiar home, friends, maybe some family they could trust. and then they are thrust into a huge, scarey, system; the "judge" makes decisions about them, but they don't see him or her out of the courtroom. seems that if the kids are removed for abuse or neglect, then they ought to be able to stay and the bad parent(s) or family member has to leave.

bearded_gnome 9 years, 6 months ago

p.s. the last idea, I know cannot ever be done practically unless some major laws get changed. but I'd sure rather see the kid have less disruption and the offending adult has to cope more with the unknowns.

johnp 9 years, 6 months ago

I agree that the lack of information for these children should be a major public issue.

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