At any given time, there are approximately 42,823 children housed in institutions and other group facilities. The trends of abuse, lack of mental health support, and racial inequality within child welfare institutions have harmed children and families for too long – and our history clearly shows that you cannot fix a fundamentally bad practice. It just needs to end.
That’s why Children’s Rights and over twenty national child welfare advocacy organizations and thought leaders are calling for the end of institutions in child welfare systems.
Children’s Rights released Families Over Facilities: Ending the Use of Harmful and Unnecessary Institutions and Other Group Facilities in Child Welfare Systems—as a call to action to end the unnecessary institutionalization of children in child welfare. The report details the physical, mental and emotional harm done to children in group settings, the significant unnecessary taxpayer costs associated with the practice, and violations of children’s civil and human rights.
Families Over Facilities provides both a Declaration of Urgency and an Adaptable Toolkit of practical steps state child welfare agencies, case workers, and service providers can take to end institutionalization, keep families together and children out of foster care, and when that is not possible, dramatically increase the placement of children with other family members.
Housing children in facilities costs up to 10 times more than supporting a child in a family setting. And the human cost falls heavily on youth of color, especially Black children, who are disproportionately investigated by child protective services, unnecessarily removed from their families, and placed in institutions.
A country where children are not housed in institutions is not only a moral imperative, it is thoroughly achievable with the right policies and leadership. States like Connecticut have already made tremendous strides through increasing preventive services and placing children with relatives rather than in group homes.
Stopping this practice and reinvesting in families and communities is not just possible – it is necessary. We must protect the 42,823 children who are churned through facilities each year and dismantle the persistent racism within the youth justice and child welfare systems.
As we move into another year with the coronavirus pandemic raging on and racial disparities intensifying, we must be relentless to protect and support families so that children can thrive during and after this crisis. Children belong in families and not facilities, and we will fight to make sure they are safe.