Group homes and large institutional foster-care settings should be phased out, according to the latest survey of kids in the system. Young people in foster care asked about their experiences for the “Away from Home” report complained of feeling vulnerable to abuse, with little privacy or personal connection. Sixto Cancel, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Think of Us and the report’s co-author, said placement with relatives often is the best option, as long as the child is consulted.
“Let’s actually ask young people who they would like to be placed with,” Cancel urged. “Let’s ask the family to be able to step up. We are still not actually maximizing aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, grandpa.”
One in ten young people in foster care nationwide is in an institutional placement, and Black youths are overrepresented. They make up 13% of the nation’s youth population, but 30% of the group-home population. Nearly 18,000 Illinois kids are in foster care. Tim McCormick, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, which supplies housing for foster parents to care for kids and teens in a neighborhood setting, said they place a strong emphasis on keeping siblings together, because studies show it can diminish levels of trauma.
“In the United States, there’s about 600,000 kids in foster care,” McCormick reported. “And 75% — so, three out of four — of those sibling groups will be separated when they go into out-of-home care.”
McCormick added home settings like what the Villages strive to make available for children in foster care can lead to greater opportunities for the future. The report showed having a consistent adult to rely on can help young people prepare for a first job or apartment, or to apply to college and access financial aid.