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Study: Number of foster children in America decreased second year in a row

Study also finds more children are being placed with family members
Posted at 10:36 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 10:36:22-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Newly released research finds the number of foster children in America has decreased for the second year in a row, according to data released by The Imprint.

The study also found more children are being placed with family members.

In Florida, the research shows foster care numbers have decreased for three years following a spike in 2017, attributed to an increase in opioid use.

Florida’s number of children and teens in foster care went from 24,224 in 2018 to 23,089 in 2020.

While on the surface, the statistics seem positive and promising, Place of Hope CEO Charles Bender views the data with caution.

“It should be a good thing,” Bender said. “It’s not just always, hey there are fewer kids and that’s 100% great.”

COVID-19, he said, probably played a part in the reduction in 2020.

“I do believe there’s something else at play here. I do believe there are a lot of kids that are in some bad situations right now. I do believe there is active abuse in their lives,” Bender said.

COVID-19 has kept more children out of school, removing one level of oversight for children.

“Still to this day, the number one reporters are going to be the front line. Where do the kids spend the most time? It’s in schools. As a result, them not being in school, there’s probably a lot of things that are unseen,” Bender said.

Teachers have a harder time seeing signs of abuse through a virtual school computer screen.

When more children start to return to school, Bender anticipates a swing in the pendulum.

“I do anticipate that any some point we will start to see a spike in the level of kids needing out-of-home placement of some level,” Bender said.

At Place of Hope, staff and volunteers are well prepared to keep answering that need, with roughly 340 beds for children in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

“In times like this, I think we should be doing more not less, and not revel in the fact that the numbers are lower. Again, if it’s for the right reasons that’s wonderful. That’s great. If it’s not that means kids are in danger,” Bender said.