Children and Youth in Care (CYIC)
4.14 Rate of CYIC per 1,000 Population
Evidence shows that, where appropriately safe, keeping families together rather than placing a child into care results in better outcomes overall for these children. Consequently Ministry of Children and Family Development's (MCFD)'s practice emphasizes family preservation, when appropriately safe, keeping children and youth from coming into care. Similarly, if a child needs to be placed in care, evidence stresses the importance on outcomes of finding permanency for CYIC through either reunification with parents, adoption or permanent transfer of guardianship.
Keeping more children and youth safe through family preservation and finding permanency for CYIC will influence the rate of CYIC downwards.
The slight downward trend in this rate continues. Strategies that will extend this downward trend into the future include greater use of family preservation strategies (such as Out-of-Care (OCO) options where children live with family or extended family when unable to live with parents) and higher rates of permanency (return to parents, adoption or permanent transfer of guardianship).
Children and youth may be in care through a court order for protection reasons (90%) or through either a Voluntary Care or Special Needs Agreement with parents (10%). Of all court order induced in care admissions, the most common reason is due to neglect with 84% overall CYIC, 85% Indigenous CYIC and 82% non- Indigenous CYIC.
Younger children are more likely to be admitted into care. This is especially true for Indigenous children. Because younger CYIC are more likely to find permanency through adoption, return to parents or permanent transfer of guardianship, most CYIC are aged 0-12 and Indigenous CYIC are younger than non-Indigenous CYIC.
Most youth aged 16 – 18 that need residential services from MCFD are appropriately served through a Youth Agreement rather than being in care. In contrast to CYIC, more Youth Agreements are for non- Indigenous youth, partially contributing to the over-representation of Indigenous CYIC.
5.01 CYIC Who Exited to Permanency
Permanent, stable relationships are a major determinant of whether children feel safe and secure and therefore, of well-being overall. Permanency is achieved by leaving the care of the Director of Child Welfare through family reunification, adoption or permanent transfer of custody under the CFCSA.
Since it is possible for a CYIC to re-enter Care after achieving permanency, whether a former CYIC has achieved permanency can only be measured over a span of time. This indicator is calculated using CYIC that achieved permanency over the twelve month period ending March 2018.
Over the twelve month period April 2018 to March 2019 1,278 CYIC (20% of all CYIC) found permanency, compared to the corresponding figures of 1,247 CYIC (or 19% of all CYIC) over the twelve month period one year earlier. There has been an upward trend since September 2012. A similar pattern is also observed for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous CYIC. The overall upward trend in this indicator is largely attributed to a significant drop in the number of non-Indigenous children being admitted into Care and a relatively stable number of non-Indigenous children being admitted into OCO over time (based on a rolling twelve month period).
It is commonly accepted that the longer children remain in Care, the less likelihood they have of unifying with their parents or being adopted. Thus, the extra time spent in Care would reduce their chance of ever achieving permanency. Of these 1,278 CYIC who exited for permanency during April 2018 – March 2019, the median amount of time spent in Care was 20 months. Although there is a higher percentage of CYIC who exited into permanency compared to September 2012 (16% in September 2012 vs. 20% in March 2019), the median time to permanency has gone up by 3 months, from 17 months in September 2012 to 20 months in March 2019. The median length of time to permanency also varies across SDAs, from as little as 13 months in the North Central SDA to as long as 26 months in the Coast North Shore SDA. For those CYIC who remained in Care, the median length of stay in Care is 56 months down from 59 months in September 2012 (it should be noted that, due to the calculation criteria, all children and youth had to be in Care for more than two months). At the SDA level, the largest improvement in the median duration in Care occurred in Okanagan SDA with a decrease of 16 months; while the largest deterioration occurred in the North Central SDA (up from 34.5 months to 41 months).
A positive implication of higher permanency rates is fewer CYIC becoming continuing wards of the province; children under Continuing Custody Orders (CCOs). CCOs, as a proportion of all CYIC, have been declining since 2004. However, this ratio increases slightly in the recent months that might be due to a substantial number of CYIC reported being discharged as a result of data cleaning efforts carried out by the ministry.
Across the province, the number of SDAs with higher Indigenous permanency rates is catching up to the number that have higher non-Indigenous rates, with 6 of the 13 SDAs having the same or higher Indigenous permanency rates in March 2019.
5.76 Per Cent of Children Eligible for Adoption Placed in Adoption Homes
Evidence has shown that children require a stable and continuous relationship with a nurturing caregiver to maximize physical, social emotional and cognitive development. If this relationship is not possible with the birth family or other OCO options, then for children whom the ministry has legal permanent guardianship, adoption is an alternative.
This indicator trended up between late 2013 and early 2016; then decreased since March 2016. The upward trend is due to a strategic initiative, and additional investments in April of 2014 and 2015, to increase the number of CYIC that find permanency. While there was a decrease in the number of children eligible for adoption since the baseline period of September 2012, the number of children placed in adoption homes increased since the baseline.
Trends in adoption rates for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous eligible CYIC are improving but the adoption rate for Indigenous children is lower than that for non-Indigenous children. This, in part, is due to Indigenous children being more likely to have siblings, requiring common placement, as well as the importance of ensuring their cultural connectedness. The number of Indigenous children placed in adoption homes increased by 43% since the base period. In contrast, Indigenous children available for adoption have only increased by 5% over the same period.
5.06 Recurrence of Maltreatment of Former CYIC
One of the ministry’s core objectives is to protect children that have been victims of abuse or neglect from further maltreatment. The maltreatment recurrence rate measures how often children that had to leave their homes because of abuse or neglect fell victim to further suspected abuse or neglect after reunification with their family. A lower maltreatment recurrence rate means that, of the children that returned home, more did so safely.
Provincially, 19.1% of CYIC that left Care in 2017/18 (excluding CYIC that aged-out at 19) came back into Care within the next 12 months, slightly lower than the over 20% in 2012 – 2017.
5.11 Placement Stability in the First Year of Care
Placement stability is essential for children and youth to develop secure attachment to a caregiver (a fundamental determinant of their well-being) and sense of belonging. Some placement changes are necessary and can be beneficial in terms of ensuring the right fit for the child or youth, but generally avoiding or minimizing moves while in Care is an important goal. Evidence shows that attachment to a caregiver for children under six can occur within as little as two to three months, and takes only slightly longer for older children and youth. Additionally, most moves occur within the first year of care.
The following table presents the count and percentage of CYIC who move zero times, one time, and two or more times within their current episode of care.
The stability indicator has remained relatively stable since September 2012.
Older children are more likely to experience a placement change. The chances of having a placement change for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children increases with age.
Historically, Indigenous children have been more likely to have a placement change than non-Indigenous children even after accounting for age differences. This is clear from the higher proportion of Indigenous children that move and the fact that, on the whole, Indigenous CYIC are younger (median age for Indigenous children was 6 compared to 8 for non-Indigenous children). However, the trend in the chart above shows the gap between the proportion of zero placement changes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children narrowing between October 2017 and June 2018, and for most of the last 12 months the proportion of Indigenous children who have not had a placement change has been higher than that non-Indigenous children.
5.12 Foster Parent Retention Rate
Foster parent retention allows for stability of placement for the children and youth who cannot be placed in kinship care. Additionally, experienced foster parents may also be better able to provide complex care that is required for the children and youth in MCFD care. Effective support for foster parents is a significant factor in their decision to continue fostering over time. The effectiveness of this support will be reflected in rates of retention for foster parents from year to year.
More than 80% of all active foster parents under the age of 64 on March 31, 2018 were still active twelve months later. The Vancouver/Richmond, North Central and Coast/North Shore SDAs had the three highest retention rates in the province this period, all above 84%.
More than 50% of active foster parents on March 31, 2017 were aged 50 or older. Older foster parents were more likely to still be fostering a year later than their younger counterparts.
Age and foster home specialization level often are related so more experienced foster parents tend to be older. As such, it is not surprising to see that foster parents in the more specialized foster homes tend to have a higher retention rate.
5.66 Residential Cost per CYIC Excluding CYIC with Special Needs
Cost pressures often stem from a shortage of skilled foster parents, which translates into a higher usage of more expensive contracted resources. Other factors that can impact costs per case include the use of exceptional payments to service providers and the level of care required by the current caseload composition.
The average annualized residential cost per CYIC increased by a total of 38.7% since the baseline period, six and half years ago. During the same time, the number of bed days continued to drop. Since the baseline period, approximately 370,000 fewer residential care days were required by MCFD annually, or the equivalent to care for 1,000 full time children or youth. This mirrored the drop in the CYIC caseload, as practice shifted towards working with families to help children stay at home, a greater use of Out-of_Care (OCO) options, and a focus on finding permanent homes for CYIC.
A total of 3,923 distinct children in care without identified special needs were in paid residential care of MCFD at some point over the 12 month reporting period. This is a drop of more than 1,870 distinct children since the baseline. On average, the length of time in a paid residential placement during the fiscal year did not change significantly.
Indigenous identified CYIC continued to make up a greater proportion of the total residential care use this period than at the baseline (52% vs. 46%). In the 12 month period ending in March 2018, it cost MCFD on average 37% more to care for non-Indigenous CYIC than for Indigenous CYIC.
The use of contracted resources for non-special needs CYIC has increased slightly recently as a proportion of all bed days. They represented 11% of bed days used this period, close to the baseline level, after having previously dropped. Their costs continued to increase such that contracted resources were responsible for almost 70% of the residential cost increase for non-special needs CYIC, increasing by 59% since September 2012 (or approximately 52% after adjusting for inflation).
The average annual residential cost for foster care has also increased over the past year, after very little movement for many years.
Regionally, costs continue to be greater in the Greater Vancouver area.
5.71 CYIC Funded Bed Utilization Rate
In order to ensure sufficient quantities of appropriate homes for children and youth that come into Care the ministry needs to fund some empty beds. Foster parents with specialized skills are provided with a monthly fixed payment regardless of whether a child is living in the home.
This is an indicator of the ministry’s ability to manage its contracts with foster care providers in order to optimize resources. Generally, a higher utilization rate (with sufficient capacity) is associated with more efficient use of foster home capacity.
The recent trend of decreasing utilization rate for purchased bed days continues. Both inventory of beds and placements have been decreasing since the baseline period. The rate has been fairly stable, fluctuating between 92.31% in September 2019 to 90.78% in March 2019.
The overall volume of bed days purchased has declined by 28% since September 2012, primarily in Contracted Resources. The current decline in the funded bed rate that started in October 2017, is primarily a result of a decline in the utilization rate of purchased bed days in Level 3. Level 1, Regular, and Restricted Care continue to account for slightly less than a 3rd of the bed days purchased, though in recent months the purchase of Contracted Resources and Level 3 bed days has decreased this to just over one quarter.
Regular, Restricted and Level 1 foster homes inventory is purchased on an as needed basis so it is always fully utilized. Approximately 90% of other home categories saw their utilization rates at or above 75% for the current period, an increase of 10 percentage points since March 2017.
Within the SDA’s, the types of foster homes used varies across all 13 areas. On average, a majority of SDA’s have Contracted Resources utilization rates below 90% in any given period, since the baseline. In contrast, the remaining foster home types have significantly higher utilization rates on average, over the same period.