Home Policy Projects Foster Care What Works in Child Welfare Reform: Reducing Reliance on Congregate Care in Tennessee

What Works in Child Welfare Reform: Reducing Reliance on Congregate Care in Tennessee

Overview

What Works in Child Welfare Reform: Reducing Reliance on Congregate Care in TennesseeWhile some youth with severe mental and behavioral health challenges need to be treated in institutions, the vast majority of children in foster care would be best served living with families, such as with relatives or in foster homes.

On July 25, 2011, Children’s Rights released a comprehensive study on Tennessee’s focused effort to increase the number of children in foster care living with families rather than inappropriately in institutions — such as shelters, group homes, and residential treatment centers — which has not only had a positive impact on children and families across the state, but could serve as a model of child welfare case practice nationwide.

What Works in Child Welfare Reform: Reducing Reliance on Congregate Care in Tennessee (PDF) reports that the state’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has greatly improved its ability to reserve institutional care only for youth with severe mental and behavioral health needs, and now the vast majority of children in foster care live with relatives or foster families. The report also outlines specific ways other jurisdictions can emulate DCS’s success.

Eleven years since Children’s Rights first filed the class action lawsuit, now known as Brian A. v. Haslam, spurring a comprehensive reform on behalf of Tennessee’s abused and neglected children in state custody, only nine percent of all children in state custody in Tennessee are living in an institution — a dramatic drop from the shocking 22 percent placed in congregate care settings at the time the suit was filed in 2000.

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