New child welfare rules aim to keep siblings together, help foster parents
New child welfare practices have updated protections for children, families and staff and have allowed more than three-quarters of foster children to be placed with their siblings, according to a report to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors this week.
The report described how the San Diego County child welfare system adopted 88 recommendations by an advisory body aimed at reaching better outcomes for foster children and those who care for them.
Those improvements led to 76 percent of children in care being placed with siblings as of January 2022 along with more support for caregivers and families and trauma support for employees, county officials said. The percentage of foster siblings placed together was up about 7 percent from 2018, when 68.9 percent of siblings were placed in the same homes.
The effort started in August 2018, when the county convened the Child Welfare Services Review Working Group to evaluate the child welfare system. Its 13 members included former foster youth, foster parents, foster care nonprofits and representatives of San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, the Superior Court Juvenile Division and other legal authorities.
In December of that year, the working group issued a report with detailed recommendations for improving child welfare services.
The agency adopted those recommendations over the next few years and reported on its results Tuesday.
Under the new protocols, the child welfare system can keep sibling groups together at county facilities for longer than 10 days if necessary to find a home that can accommodate brothers and sisters together.
The county also worked with Angels Foster Family Network, a nonprofit foster care agency, to increase sibling placements within its system, the report said. And county child welfare services updated policies to require a sibling visitation plan and ensure frequent contact among siblings who could not be placed together.
The new protocols bolstered support for caregivers by providing 24-hour phone or mobile support and offering “Kinship Navigator services” to provide information and resources to relatives caring for children in their families. And it boosted support for staff by adding three psychologists to address “secondary traumatic stress” experienced at work, and adopting tools for better workload management and staffing levels.
“Now, three years later, I am very happy we have reached this important milestone in the transformation of the department, but our work is not done,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher. “We must continue to strive for excellence, because the children and families of San Diego County depend on it.”
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