A needs assessment study was conducted in 2012 and updated in 2017 to determine if there was a need for additional out-of-home placement options for at-risk youth in the foster care system within Missouri’s 20th Judicial Circuit (encompassing the counties of Franklin, Gasconade and Osage). Data to be reviewed included: current population of at-risk youth in foster care, available community resources and service providers, Missouri licensed residential centers and the long-term success rate of past residents, and identification of effective evidence-based program and treatment models used in Missouri residential centers.

Key Findings

Many children aging out of foster care systems lack the skills necessary to live independently.

The Federal Fostercare study (www.acf.hhs.gov) from 2012 reported that of the 23,439 children aging out of the foster care system each year:

  • 1 in 5 will become homeless after the age of 18
  • Only ½ will be employed at the age of 24
  • Less than 3% will earn a college degree
  • 71% of the young women will be pregnant by age 21
  • 1 in 4 will experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Average daily statistics as reported for Missouri’s 20th Judicial Circuit Children’s Division in October 2016:

  • 350 children in foster care
  • Only 50 licensed foster homes & 46 licensed kinship homes in the 20th Circuit
  • Many youths are separated from their siblings due to licensing constraints of foster homes or behavioral issues of one youth
  • Reported trend – older youth are placed in residential facilities due to the lack of foster homes available for teens.

In 2016, there were 488 children in state custody (Children’s Division) from Missouri’s 20th Judicial Circuit. An additional 1,337 children from the surrounding counties of Warren, Crawford, Jefferson, and Washington counties were in foster care.   In 2016, Missouri reported 20,284 children in the foster care system.

Of the 418 reported children in foster care in Franklin County in 2016:

  • 274 children were under the age of 12
  • 40 % had been in foster care for over 2 years
  • 43 children had been moved to 6 + different placements
  • 11 of the children moved more than 11 times

In 2016, there were 65 listed agencies identified as service providers for needy children and families in Franklin County. Services provided include: mental health and substance abuse services for adults and youth, educational services, homeless and women’s shelter, health care services, etc.

Franklin County Community Resource Board SB 40 (FCCRB) oversees the Putting Kids First Children’s Service Fund and the Domestic Violence Fund for Franklin County. These funds are utilized to support approved youth programs provided by 15 agencies in Franklin County. The FCCRB oversees the Systems of Care process families in Franklin County.   Approved agencies provide community-based services, school-based services and prevention programs.   Agencies providing services to children and families in 2016 include:   CASA, ALIVE, Buddies not Bullies, Grace’s Place Crisis Nursery and Lutheran Children and Families Services.

Fifty-six agencies have been licensed by the state of Missouri to provide residential care for foster children in Missouri. Of these agencies:

  • 0 were located in the three counties of Missouri’s 20th Judicial Circuit
  • 14 did not provide counseling services
  • 11 have an alternative school on site
  • 52 provided housing in hospitals, dormitories or large group homes
  • 4 provide family-style homes with live-in house parents, with 8-10 children

According to research studies funded by the Casey Foundation and other independent studies:

  • Policy and practice changes, nationwide, have been implemented to reduce the number of group home placements and duration of placements. Policy and procedures direct youth to be placed in the least restrictive, family- based setting.
  • Group homes, identified as homes with seven or more children, with shift staff, are viewed as ineffective and can have a traumatic and negative impact on the development of at-risk children.
  • The Teaching Family Model, used with trained, live-in house parents with a maximum of six children, has been identified as an effective, evidence-based behavior management model.
  • The Transition to Independence Model (TIP) has been identified as an effective, evidence-based transition program for older youth.

References

Elements of Effective Practices for Children and Youth Served by Therapeutic Residential Care; Research Brief March 2016 by Dr. Peter Pecora, PhD with Casey Family Program; casey.org

Attitudes, Perceptions, and Utilization of Evidence-Based Practices in RTCs by Sigrid. James, PhD                     2016

What Works in Group Care? – A structured Review of Treatment Models for Group Homes and Residential Care. S. James, PhD, 2012

Comparing Outcomes for Youth in Treatment Foster Care and Family style Group Care. B. Lee, PhD and R. Thompson, PhD, 2009

Transition to Adulthood: Program Models and Evidenced-Based Practice Summary. Jackson County Community Mental Health Fund and Resource Development Institute, 2008.

Conclusions

  1. Franklin County needs additional traditional foster care families with qualified foster parents specially trained in trauma focused, behavior management.
  2. Additional staff for Children’s Division and Chafee program to lower caseloads so that workers can provide individualized support to their youth and families.
  3. Franklin County needs a specialized residential center for children unsuccessful in traditional foster family setting, older youth and large sibling groups:
  • Creating a “community” of family-style homes
  • Live-in house parents formally trained in trauma focused behavior management skills
  • Maximum of six children per home

Services to include:

  • Individualized, trauma-focused therapeutic treatment
  • Effective evidence-based behavior management program
  • Effective evidence-based transitional programs for older youth
  • Alternative educational program
  • Programs for family involvement
  • Community service learning program
  • Extended aftercare services

The residential facility should function as part of a countywide system of care, with residential treatment services for specific populations within a continuum of care.