All regions are focusing on safe and timely achievement of permanency goals for children in out-of-home care, and all regions show decreased lengths of stay for children in long-term foster care except Region 2. Much of this decline can be attributed to the results of our strong permanency strategies, while some may be due to data report validation and other factors.
Permanency goals in Region 2 are impacted by the high number of Indian children served in coordination with the Yakama (Yakima) Nation. Region 3 similarly serves Indian children in coordination with the Lummi Nation. There is no state legal representation for children served in tribal courts. Our ability and responsibility to achieve permanency for children served jointly with tribes is somewhat limited. While this data report should be excluding children under tribal court jurisdiction (as well as youth over age 18), there still are an unknown number of these children and youth in the data. In the continuing work on both the data report logic and FamLink documentation, managers are working with Region 2 data so future reports more closely reflect the population of children whose lengths of stay we are trying to reduce.
Region 4, an early adopter of court collaboration strategies, has seen a substantial decrease in median lengths of stay for children in out-of-home care since the beginning of SFY 2009 (from 670 days to an estimated 529). Median lengths of stay are estimated to fall by more than 60 days in Region 3 between the 1st and 2nd quarters of SFY 2011 due to concentrated permanency efforts and work with the court systems, as well as data integrity leadership.
Region 5 shows the lowest median number of days for children in long-term foster care, at 407. Historically, LOS in Region 5 has been low relative to other regions due to a strong focus on permanency, particularly for children receiving Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS) through treatment foster care rather than group care. Spring 2010, after a series of critical incidents, Region 5 conducted a thorough assessment of child safety practices and implemented an action plan to ensure child safety. This resulted in an increased number of children placed in out-of-home care. Those children show in the data as a large number with relatively shorter lengths of stay that lowers the median for all Region 5 children.
Other factors that impact regional performance are differences and inconsistencies among court commissioners and judges in the various jurisdictions (and sometimes in the same jurisdiction when commissioners and judges rotate). This issue also was identified in the federal review of cases for the recently conducted Child and Family Services Review. Court improvement strategies are helping to minimize this.