Grassley discusses how to safely reduce reliance on foster care group homes

Grassley-090507-18363- 0032From Press Release


Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley made the following statement at the opening of a hearing titled “No Place to Grow Up: How to Safely Reduce Reliance on Foster Care Group Homes” held before the Senate Finance Committee.

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Today, the Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony on the need to reduce the reliance on foster care group homes.  The basic premise of this hearing is simple:  children should not be forced to grow up in an institution.  It cannot be said enough that children fare better when with family.  Foster youth want the same thing as every other child — they want a mom and dad and someone to love them.  So, we must do everything we can to ensure that children, when placed in foster care, are given every opportunity to be normal and are nurtured and loved along the way.

I have worked for decades to ensure that every child gets to grow up in a safe and loving family.  I was the principal drafter of the landmark Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.  As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, I am deeply engaged in developing policies that will help all children find a loving and forever family.

Group homes, sometimes referred to as “congregate care,” create conditions that make children and youth vulnerable to a number of negative outcomes such as:  homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse and poverty.

Group homes are expensive.  Some research indicates that they are up to 10 times more expensive than family-based homes.  It calls into question whether we should be paying for such placements when they are associated with negative outcomes.

What also makes no sense is that in some instances, if the proper services had been available, these children could have remained safely at home and not needed to go into foster care in the first place.

Some allege that children and youth in group homes have to be there because they cannot be safely placed in a family foster care setting.  However, the data simply does not support that.  A recent report from the Department of Health of Human Services reveals that “children twelve and younger comprised an unexpectedly high percentage – 31 percent — of children who experience a congregate care setting.”

According to HHS, 40 percent of children and youth in congregate care have no documented clinical or behavioral reason for a non-family placement.  Many believe that infants, children and youth with manageable behavior issues or no behavior issues should not be placed in congregate care facilities.

For youth who present with a severe mental health diagnosis, improvement can be made in a specialized setting for a limited period of time.  However, there is no research whatsoever that a long term placement in a therapeutic group home produces positive outcomes.  In fact, we will hear today testimony that supports anecdotal evidence that concludes that after a period of a few months, any progress made in a therapeutic facility is undone.

But the bottom line is this – children belong in a family.   Families are where we find comfort and love and support that sustain us in challenging times.  Increasing placement with kin will also reduce the use of group homes.  There are many benefits to kinship care.  Placing youth with close relatives provides more stability, helps keep siblings together, and reduces the emotional trauma of being separated from their parents.  Kinship placements also allow young people to maintain community, school, and family relationships.   Children need someone to tuck them in at night and make them feel safe.  Young people need positive adult role models to help them make the transition to adulthood.  So, we need to do whatever we can to ensure that every child has a loving, safe and permanent home.  I hope that members will listen carefully to the testimony and policy recommendations presented here today.