Children are placed in foster care when a child protective services worker and the court have determined it is not safe for them to remain home. In 2015, nearly 428,000 children were in foster care nationwide; 3,908 of these children were Connecticut residents. The following brief details information from FY 2015 on foster care in the state. This data is available thanks to new reports from Child Trends, a nationally focused nonprofit research organization focused on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families.
In Connecticut, all families providing foster care and pre-adoptive care for children must be licensed or approved by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), which also oversees the child-placing agencies statewide. At 2 children in foster care per 1,000 children, Connecticut’s foster care population is proportionally lower than the national rate of 4 children in foster care per 1,000 children. However, children in foster care in Connecticut spend an average of 10 months longer in foster care than the national average of 20 months.
Connecticut also has a higher percentage of children who are in foster care for 5 or more years, with 14% of the foster care population experiencing prolonged displacement from their family and disruption of their usual routine. Nationwide, only 6% of children in foster care remain so for 5 or more years. Children in foster care need strong relationships with caring adults, a network of social support, and services to cope with the challenging circumstances of home removal and the potential trauma from the prolonged disruption to familiar routines, relationships, and surroundings. The primary reason for entering foster care in Connecticut and across the country is neglect.
In Connecticut, though Hispanic or Latino and African American children Connecticut represent 23% and 11% of the state’s child population respectively, 36% of the foster care population in FY were Hispanic or Latino and 24% were African American. The age distribution of Connecticut is also slightly different; 16-20 year olds represented 29% of the state’s foster care population, nearly double the population of older children in care nationwide. As Child Trends reports, children who are older, are a racial or ethnic minority, have special needs, or suffer from a behavioral or mental disorder are more likely to experience multiple foster care placements and stay in care longer. In Connecticut, while 39% of children received only one foster care placement, over 20% of children in the state have experienced 4 or more placements which can create added stress and instability.
Transition-Age Youth in Foster Care in Connecticut
Older youth in foster care face a unique set of challenges, as transitioning into adulthood without stable family connections can have serious impacts on educational and lifelong outcomes. As Child Trends reports that transition-aged youth close to aging out of foster care are more likely to experience homelessness than their non-foster care involved peers, and are less likely to complete high school. Since 2011, the number of youth aged 16-18 in Connecticut Foster care has been rising, with a drop in the numbers of 19-21 year old youth in care. In 2015, there were 1,456 transition-aged youth between the ages of 16 and 21 in foster care in Connecticut. In FY 2014, 4% of the Department of Children & Families budget was specifically spent on services and assistance for older youth in, or previously in, foster care. In 2015, of the children who aged out of foster care, 42% had been in care since before age 13; the median age for entry into foster care for Connecticut’s transition-age youth is 14.
Click here to read the full fact sheet from Child Trends.