Last month, Sacramento County was identified by the Federal government as one of 10 counties in the nation that significantly reduced the total number of children placed in foster care between 2002 to 2012.
During that period, foster care placements in the US reduced by almost a quarter (23.7%). The Federal Department of Health and Human Services report on Recent Demographic Trends in Foster Care report (September 2013) pointed out that the overall decline in foster care placements by child protective services agencies was also notable for African-American children. The report states that "just 10 counties accounted for one half of the national decline, both overall and among African American children." Sacramento County's decrease of 2,656 placements made the top 10 list.
The HHS report suggested that policies emphasizing permanency for children and child welfare strategies including family preservations have been pursued during the same period when these reductions occurred.
Sherri Z. Heller, Director of the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services thinks those policies and strategies have been effective in Sacramento County. "Our Child Protective Services Agency made organizational, practice, and programming changes with the intention of providing support to families that need it, so that they can safely stay together. We're proud that the impact is being recognized nationally, and we're grateful to our staff and the community partners we work with on Early Intervention Family Drug Court, Nurse-Family Partnership, Family Resource Centers, and other programs that keep children safe without taking them away from their parents."
Over the past year, Sacramento County CPS leaders have partnered with national child welfare experts at Casey Family Programs to look more broadly at the changes that Sacramento CPS undertook during this period. Casey's review focused on the program and policy reforms instituted by CPS that contributed to the County's ability to safely reduce the need for foster care. The report with the findings will be published in December.