A new article by Judith Schagrin has been published at Child Welfare Monitor about a familiar topic, the child welfare placement crisis, “a slow-motion train wreck whose results could have been predicted easily”.
Today, many youth, especially older youth, are entering foster care not because of what we traditionally think of as maltreatment, but due to parental incapacity or unwillingness to care for them due to acutely problematic behavior, and behavioral health and/or developmental needs. Services to meet these needs are often missing or inadequate, and parents of children with high-intensity needs cannot find residential treatment except through the child welfare system.
(One point in Judith’s piece that doesn’t always get a mention is the shift from jails and secure residential facilities for delinquent youth, or ‘status offenders’ who have run away or otherwise cannot be cared for by their parents.)
Although it could be mistaken for a summary of Washington child welfare history, the article is focused on Maryland – many of the significant social and legal changes described have taken place at the federal level, and the same placement crisis is taking place across the country, as described by Marie Cohen (who blogs as Child Welfare Monitor) in her piece a year ago:
State and local agencies are unable to find appropriate placements for foster children and youth with the most severe behavioral health needs. ….foster care professionals all over the country are reporting that the children who are being placed today have more serious needs and often need of intensive services from professionals.