Across the country, far too many children are growing up in foster care. Nationally, over the last 10 years, foster care rolls have grown dramatically because more children, especially infants and youngsters, are entering the system and fewer are leaving. Children of color are significantly over-represented and are also experiencing longer stays. Legislative reforms in the early 1980s were aimed at reducing the number and length of stay of children in foster care, but states are struggling more than ever to achieve that goal.
The primary goal of Colorado's foster care program is to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of vulnerable children placed in foster homes. Most of these children have been abused and/or neglected by their parents or other caretakers and are placed in foster care to ensure their protection.
In state fiscal year 2000, the monthly average number of children in the state foster care program was about 5,600. For state fiscal year 2004, the monthly average number of children receiving out of home services was 7,606. This represents a 26 percent increase over the past four years. As the number of children needing foster care has increased, the availability of foster care providers has decreased. From state fiscal year 2001 through 2003, the number of family foster home care providers has fallen by 5 percent, from 4,777 to 4,546.
With the appropriate reforms in policy, resources and programs, family foster care can respond to the challenges of out-of-home placement and be a less expensive and more humane choice for children and youth than are institutions or other group settings. Family foster care reform, in and of itself, can yield important benefits for families and children, although such reform is only one part of a larger agenda designed to address the overall well-being of children and families currently in need of child protective services.