Report: Arizona lags behind nation in placing teens into foster families

Apr 5, 2019, 4:15 AM
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — New data from a children’s advocacy group shows that Arizona is slow to place teens into foster families compared to the rest of the nation.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report looked at state data from 2007 to 2017 and found that while more younger children are being placed into foster care families, teens are often left in group care.

“I think the main finding is that Arizona is well above the national average of children placed in group homes,” Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile justice at the Children’s Action Alliance, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

She said 45 percent of teens were placed in group homes in Arizona in 2017, compared to the national average of 34 percent.

“It’s important because kids do much better in foster homes and in family homes … rather than group care,” she said.

“Group care does not give youth the opportunity to basically experience normal teenage or child experiences.”

Rosenberg said group homes often employ staff who work in shifts, so children don’t have stable family figures and miss out on things like after-school activities and driving lessons.

“Teens particularly need those supportive, established relationships with adults that they can depend on, and group care just doesn’t provide that,” she said.

Overall, Arizona did improve its numbers, placing 83 percent of all children in foster care into homes in 2017 compared to 80 percent in 2007, but it still lagged behind the nation’s average at 86 percent.

Rosenberg said the state needs to work toward moving children into family homes, in part because the federal Family First Prevention Services Act will reduce the amount of federal reimbursement for group home care starting in late 2021.

“I think for those who are interested in becoming foster parents, we really need to focus on those teens in care and trying to provide homes for them,” she said.

“And hopefully more and more efforts are going to be made to provide foster family care for kids in foster care.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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Report: Arizona lags behind nation in placing teens into foster families