When NJ’s foster kids leave the system, where do they go?
About 10 percent of young New Jersey residents in foster care exit the system with no real family support, according to the latest Kids Count data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Of the 7,138 foster children on New Jersey's books in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, hundreds transitioned out of foster care without the benefit of a permanent connection to family.
That number includes 13 runaways and two deaths, along with transfers to another agency. But the biggest driver was emancipation, or aging out of the system. New Jersey allows care up until age 21.
Nationally, 12 percent exited the foster system without a family connection.
According to Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the state has sharpened its focus on providing foster children with family ties, even when a child is taken into the system.
The state first seeks a different family member to house the child, she said, and if that can't happen, a child can be housed with a foster family that has gone through the state's training and approval process.
"Very often the foster family is within the child's somewhat local community," Zalkind said.
More than half (51 percent) of New Jersey's foster population was reunified with their original family or caretaker upon exiting placement, according to the Kids Count data. Another 22 percent were adopted. Guardianship and other relatives accounted for 9 percent and 7 percent of exits respectively.
Most children enter foster care because they've been abused or neglected and may feel frightened or rejected. Older children tend to enter the system due to severe emotional or mental needs.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com