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June 11, 2024 12:30 pm

Local News

Report: Strengthening PA child-welfare system for kids, families

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Danielle Smith, Public News Service

The 14th annual “State of Child Welfare in Pennsylvania” report is out. It shows some progress but also highlights ongoing areas of concern.

Reports of child abuse and neglect allegations have risen in the last two years, coming close to pre-pandemic levels. And 2022 saw 1,000 more child abuse or Child Protective Services reports compared to 2021.

Rachael Miller, policy director at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said the rise indicates families are struggling with basic needs, from mental health support to housing instability.

“Allegations that are substantiated were at 12% for abuse, and a quarter of neglect reports were found to be substantiated,” Miller reported. “It’s important to note that child welfare agencies continue to provide a significant amount of services to families. Over 211,000 children and families were provided with county-funded services to meet their needs.”

General Protective Service reports also increased in 2022, topping 165,000. Miller argued social safety nets could address the problems rather than child welfare interventions; services like child care, home-visiting programs to at-risk families, housing services, mental health and substance-use treatment.

The report noted more than 19,000 children were served in foster care in 2022, which is about 1,200 fewer than the previous year. And Miller emphasized more children in the state are finding safe havens with trusted individuals they already know, marking a record high for placements with kin or close connections.

“While the rates continue to decline, and that’s a good thing, the one thing we want to focus on is ensuring that all children have the opportunity to be raised in kinship care,” Miller stressed. “We’ve seen the steady trend of that increasing over the last five years, but there’s more that we can do to ensure that children have that opportunity.”

The report also found ongoing racial disparities. Black children are represented in foster care re-entries 3.4 times more than their rate in the general population. Miller added Black children and families are more likely to be reported, investigated and kids placed in foster care, which she observed is both a national and statewide trend.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.