A Temporary Haven: Children and Youth are Spending Less Time in Foster Care


This research brief highlights the gains the foster care system has made in safely discharging youth
from foster care in a timely manner, particularly those entering foster care for the first time. For
nearly two decades federal policies have emphasized the importance of reducing the lengths of stay in
foster care and avoiding what is known as " foster care drift'" both by mandating timelines for
permanency decisions as well as promoting family-centered practice and expanding federally funded
permanency options Practice innovations at the state and local levels - such as differential response
programs, improved risk assessments, and family team meetings- have similarly sought to ensure
that chi ldren enter foster care only when necessary and that, once in care, effo r1s are made to resolve
the issues in the fami ly promptly so that chi ldren may return home or to other permanent placements
quickly and safely. The data presented in this brief indicate that progress is being made in most states
but work remains to be done. Compared with a decade ago, fewer children are entering foster care,
and those that do transition to pennanence more quickly and are less likely to return. These trends
may suggest a positive shift to make use of foster care as a safe, temporary haven for children and
youth who must be removed from their homes due to com{lromised safety.

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