California’s two different visions for better foster care

In California, there's momentum to move more foster kids into families, not group homes. But for some kids, group homes can feel like family, too. The lessons could echo nationwide.
News Story (California)

Jessica Mendoza
Christian Science Monitor
March 9, 2016

Tags: Foster Youth

Organizations mentioned/involved: Youth Law Center (YLC) (San Francisco)


In a push to reform child welfare systems, California and other states continue to move toward placing children with foster families instead of in group homes. The ongoing shift – backed by research that finds most children thrive in traditional family settings more than they do in congregate care – has been spurred by reports of abuse, mismanagement, and exploitation at group homes and shelters for troubled youths in the state and elsewhere.


The measure takes into account a California Department of Social Services report, issued in January 2015, detailing the need for greater emphasis on placing children with families, and providing increased support to the families who are willing to care for such children. While foster families are far from perfect – foster parents have been known to abuse or neglect children in their care, or take in children solely for the stipend – the bill also reflects research that shows reuniting children with families, or placing them in environments that closely resemble the traditional family setting, reduces the trauma of being pulled out of their own homes.

“The policy is now aligned with what development [research] says we have to do, what we know children need,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the California Youth Law Center (YLC), a San Francisco firm that provides legal services to children in the foster care and justice systems.