Youth in Ohio foster care face more placements, barriers to adulthood

Youth age 14 and older in Ohio’s child wefare system experience more foster placements — which can be disruptive and traumatic — than those in other states, a new report shows.

Compared to a nationwide average, those in Ohio are 8 percent more likely to be moved more frequently, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation report released Tuesday.

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Older children who have faced abuse and neglect longer are more difficult to place with foster parents, which can cause further trauma, said Scott Britton, assistant director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

“The number of placement moves in the report rings true,” Britton said. “Every placement move can mean not just a new family to adjust to but it can also mean an adjustment to a new school and new friends … It really is a kind of a vicious cycle.”

Data from the Fostering Youth Transitions report also show racial disparities in Ohio’s system. African Americans make up just 14 percent of the state’s population but make up 36 percent of the state’s foster population.

A quarter of the nation’s 171,162 children in foster care during the 2016 study period were age 14 and older; in Ohio, the number was 6,727 or 28 percent.

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Nationally, the study’s findings show:

• Half of older teens who left foster care aged out versus being reunited or connected with a family.

• A third have been removed from their home and placed in foster care multiple times.

• Half have experienced three or more foster care placements.

• A third experienced a group home or institutional placement during their most recent stay in foster care.

• Fewer than a quarter of young people who received a federally-funded transition service received services for employment, education or housing.

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The numbers also show that by age 21, young adults who experienced foster care have worse outcomes than their peers in maintaining relationships, attaining postsecondary education, securing permanent housing and finding support if a young parent. This is particularly the case for youth of color, who are overrepresented in foster care. In about half of states, black youth ages 14-21 are more than three times more likely to be in foster care than young white people, according to the report.

“Experiencing stable living arrangements while in foster care increases the likelihood that young people will exit foster care to family,” the report states. “Yet half of them will experience three or more placements, which compromises their ability to form trusting and lasting relationships.”

All youth who reach age 18 in foster care would benefit from extended care and further support, but only one in four are getting it, according to the report prepared by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, the foundation’s arm that helps teenagers and young adults transition from foster care to adulthood. Altogether, about a million Americans ages 14 to 26 have spent at least one day in foster care, according to the initiative.

“We now have the data to confirm that our systems are not delivering on the commitment to ensure these youth are growing up with permanent families that would best enable them to thrive,” said Leslie Gross, the initiative’s director.

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