Source: CVDaily Feed

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah ranks at the statistical national average when it comes to placing children who are not with their biological families into a family environment, rather than a group home or institution, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Released Tuesday, the report found in a recent year 84 percent of the 2,700 children in the state’s care were in a family placement, which mirrors national numbers. Terry Haven, deputy director of Voices for Utah Children, says the bar should be high for institutionalizing any child.

“We really want to make sure that’s the last resort,” she says. “Get them in kinship care. If that doesn’t work, get them in foster care families.”

Haven says having more foster families in the system and increased staff at Child and Family Services could also help more kids. The Casey Foundation report calls on policymakers, child welfare agencies and family court judges to support decision-making that ensures the least restrictive placement.

Haven adds that group placements can cost up to 10 times the amount it takes to place a child with a relative or foster family. She says children in group homes and institutions are also more likely to be abused and arrested.

“The research we’re looking at shows youth in group placement homes were almost two-and-a-half times as likely to be arrested,” she says, “compared with similar youth living with just foster families.”

The report found that in 2013, 84 percent of young people in the U.S. ages 20 and under in foster care were in family placement. Fourteen percent were in a non-family placement, such as group homes or institutions.