As the number of children in foster care falls, kids who are removed from their homes in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation are more likely to be placed with relatives.

States are increasingly looking to family to step in as the safety net instead of putting children in group homes and other institutional settings, according to a recent analysis by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Since 2000, the percentage of children living with kin in state-supervised placements increased 8 percent, and the use of group homes declined by 17 percent. Kentucky had the lowest rate of children living with kin at 5 percent, while Hawaii had the highest at 48%.

In 2012, 25 percent — or more than 3,500 —  of foster children in Pennsylvania were placed with relatives. The national average of children placed in foster care with family was 27 percent.

Arizona, Montana and Florida each had more than 40 percent of foster children living with relatives, according to the data, which the foundation acquired through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), made available through the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

About 397,000 children were in foster care in the United States as of 2012, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

That number is nearly 24 percent less than the number of foster children a decade ago.

Pennsylvania’s population of children in foster care fell 30 percent in that decade, which equates to at least 6,300 fewer children in the system.

A March report by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children highlights the state’s focus on addressing family issues without removing children from the home:

Pennsylvania’s child-welfare system is serving more children today than it did five years ago, but we are relying much less on foster-care placement as an intervention. …

Children are far better off when they can be served in their own homes rather than being placed in foster care. Foster-care placement has unintended negative consequences for children, including the trauma caused by separating children from their families, schools and communities.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or

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Halle is executive director, editor-in-chief of PublicSource. She has served as editor-in-chief since May 2022 after seven years as managing editor during which PublicSource won two consecutive international...