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Audit says fewer Utah children being placed into foster care

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 8:50 p.m. MST

Youth in long-term foster care use 43 percent of DCFS's out-of-home budget but make up 23 percent of the state's foster care population. In 2012, the division spent nearly $10.2 million on this population alone.

While Platt says the division prefers to place children in home-like settings, some children in DCFS custody have severe behavioral issues, have been adjudicated as sex offenders or have run away from foster homes. Few foster families will open their homes to them.

But he acknowledges that the longer children are in state custody, it is less likely they will find permanent homes through adoption.

"These youth, compared to their non-foster care peers, are less likely to finish high school and become employed. They are also more likely to have mental health problems, be involved in crime, go to jail, become homeless, live in poverty and rely on public assistance," the audit said.

The audit also found that nearly half of the children in state custody who were legally free for adoption were not placed on the Utah Adoption Exchange, despite a DCFS policy that requires caseworkers to do so.

According to the audit, 127 of 261 children eligible for adoption were not posted on the Adoption Exchange.

DCFS regional directors indicated that some caseworkers are not following this policy because it is time intensive, and caseworkers are already overburdened by other tasks.

In his written response to the audit, Platt said DCFS will put in place a system to ensure all eligible foster children are placed on the Adoption Exchange.

Part of the problem, he said, is that DCFS has lacked the resources to include all children on the exchange. When DCFS places children on the exchange and community members indicate their interest in adoption, caseworkers need to thoroughly vet the applications. Ten to 12 prospective adoptive parents may apply to adopt each child.

Platt said he is also concerned whether the nonprofit Adoption Exchange, which serves Utah and seven other states, has the "staffing and manpower to manage that increase."

However, Platt pledged to work with the Adoption Exchange to find a means to address the issue within the division. The Utah Adoption Exchange did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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