This month, we’re reviewing September 2017 CPS data for Collin County. One figure that Foster Friends pays close attention to is the percentage of children in substitute care from Collin County who are sent to live outside of Collin County. As you can see in the pie chart, we are currently retaining only about 45% of Collin County’s children in substitute care here within our own county limits. The others are sent to live in other counties.
In-County v. In-Region
When you look at older data from 2016, you’ll see that although only 31% of Collin County children in foster care were able to remain within the county that year, a somewhat comforting 78% were at least able to remain within the region, (which could mean two hours away in Erath County, but at least could never mean, for example, Harris County).
What Does it Mean?
Sometimes it’s great for a child to be placed out of county, like when a child gets to stay with her favorite aunt in neighboring Denton. Other times, it’s less than ideal, like when a child is moved to a stranger’s house across the state because all the foster homes in Collin County that can meet the child’s needs are full. When a child is moved far from home, that child is isolated from his friends and local connections. Additionally, the distance puts an extra strain on Collin County CPS, which must travel to visit the child on a monthly basis. The child’s guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem may also be burdened by the travel required to visit the child in the out-of-county placement. The distance can complicate visitation between the child and his biological parents, particularly when biological parents have difficulty securing transportation. The burden often rests on the foster parent or CPS to ensure the child makes regular journeys back to the home county for visitation.
Where we Stand
A quick scroll through the data makes clear that this issue is not unique to Collin County. The 2016 data shows few counties are able to retain more than half of their foster children within their borders, and in fact on average, counties retained only 39% of their own foster children. So while Collin County may not exactly be leading the pack on this issue, things could be much, much worse.
How do we solve this? Recruiting and retaining more foster parents never hurts, but right now most of the foster children living in Collin County foster homes are children who originated from other counties. To create more beds in Collin County for Collin County foster children, the effort to recruit and retain foster parents needs to be made on a statewide basis.