Nearly four thousand children in Mississippi are living in foster care. That's according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released a report today. It looks into how many of those children are being placed in a family setting versus group home.
Roughly 15 percent of children living in Mississippi's foster care system in 2013, were placed in group homes. That number is nearly half of what it was in 2003, but it's still slightly higher than the national average.
Child welfare advocates have argued for decades that placing children in a family setting has far better outcomes than placing them in group homes. Linda Southward is with Mississippi Kids Count -- a research group aimed at improving outcomes for children around the state.
"Children who live in families and supported through the tough times have the best chances for life's success," says Southward. "That also includes being more successful parents themselves one day. So it's important for younger children, and it's clearly important for teenagers as well."
To improve outcomes for children living in foster care, Southward recommends the state's use a justification system for why kids are being kept in group homes. She also suggests lawmakers create a statewide database of foster parents willing to take in kids.
Linda West with Families for Kids -- one of the agencies dedicated to placing children in permanent homes -- says there's simply not enough foster parents.
"We know that we have more older, teenage children in foster care, and those children are the ones who tend to go into the group homes," says West, "because we do not have enough family foster homes to take care of those children.
According to a different survey conducted by the U-S Department of Health and Human Services, children have more positive experiences when living in a family setting than compared to those who living in group placement.