HARRISBURG, Pa. — A new report highlights the advantages of kinship care for children in contact with Pennsylvania’s child-welfare system, and the need for increased equity in child placements.
Placement in foster care is traumatic for children and their families.
Studies show compared with children placed with non-relatives, kids placed with relatives or other adults with existing relationships experience better educational outcomes and maintain stronger family and community ties.
Rachael Miller, policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said in 2019 fewer than 40% of Pennsylvania children in foster care were placed with kin, and the rates for permanent placements were even lower.
“Only 13% of children adopted from foster care were adopted by relatives and another 13% exited to guardianship with formal kin,” Miller outlined.
She pointed out Black and Hispanic children were less likely than Caucasian children to be permanently placed with kin.
Miller noted part of the problem is a lack of consistency in placement procedures across the state, and added each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have independent child-welfare agencies, each with their own policies and practices for child placement.
“The first recommendation that we have is to update policies, regulatory practices and bulletins to eliminate those unnecessary barriers to identifying, locating and licensing kin as caregivers through the child-welfare system,” Miller explained.
She emphasized kinship placement is often denied for reasons related to poverty, not child safety, and those experiences are more like to impact communities of color.
Miller hopes the report will highlight the need to take a close look at laws and regulations governing child placement, the need for an unbiased process for kinship caregivers to appeal when disqualified for placement, and the need for increased data collection.
“We need to understand why kin are being denied, what services are being offered to support them, and how to increase the outcomes for children being connected to and supported by their family,” Miller contended.
She stressed it will be most important to guide reforms through the lived experiences of those kinship caregivers who have dealt with the child welfare system.