Often, numbers tell a story stronger than words.
When it comes to child abuse and neglect, the numbers reveal a story that may be quite surprising to some.
Consider this: According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 74.8 percent of children brought to the attention of the child welfare system arrive with allegations of neglect – not, as often assumed – abuse.
The numbers tell an important story: families are struggling to access the support and resources they need to properly care for their children.
This is significant. If we can reach these families before their struggles escalate, we can prevent more children from entering foster care. That’s why Children’s Home Society of Florida has embarked on a bold direction: to end the need for foster care as we know it.
What does that mean? In the most basic terms, it means keeping more families safe, strong and together – and keeping more kids out of foster care.
Just recently, we received a clear message from Congress, with the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which changes the funding model for serving children in foster care and those at risk of entering foster care.
With this legislation, the federal government will increase funding to states to provide in-home family support services – from counseling and parenting education to substance abuse treatment – so, whenever possible, children can remain safe at home with their families.
This is a significant step in the right direction – and it can have incredible effect in our community.
Today, nearly 600 local children, who may otherwise be in foster care, are living safely in their own homes. We’re partnering with their parents to empower them to overcome challenges so their children don’t enter foster care. We’re connecting them with counseling, parent education, housing, jobs, health care providers and a multitude of other community resources that can help them keep their families safe, strong and together.
This has a real impact on the children – and the future of our community.
A study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which tracked 15,000 Illinois youth – all of whom had been the subject of a child abuse or neglect investigation – from 1990 to 2002 revealed that kids who remained in their homes experienced better outcomes than those who entered foster care.
Included in the findings: 44 percent who entered foster care were arrested at least once. Among children who stayed with families deemed “at-risk”: 14 percent.
Also, 56 percent of girls who entered foster care became teen mothers, whereas only 33 percent who remained with “at-risk” families experienced teen pregnancy.
When it comes to employment, the study illustrated that children who remained in their homes were 13 percent more likely than their counterparts in foster care to hold a job for at least three months once they became adults.
While the data clearly shows that – when appropriate – children who remain with their families fare better, we also understand that there will always be a need for foster care. And Children’s Home Society of Florida remains committed to serving the children and families who do enter the foster care system.
But we also have a responsibility to do more. And, with proper services in place, we believe we can keep more families safe, strong and together – and build a brighter future for Palm Beach County.
Note: This originally appeared in the Palm Beach Post.