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State Is Keeping More Foster Kids In Hotels

Matt M. McKnight

Foster kids in Washington state have been housed in hotels and state offices at a higher rate than ever, over the past year. It's a practice that's costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and it's further traumatizing some of the state's most vulnerable citizens.

Many say the child welfare system is in crisis. And it's being made worse by the high rate of opioid addiction, which is causing more kids to be removed from their homes.

Allegra Abramo has reported on this story for Investigate West and Crosscut. She talked about her work with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.

Interview highlights

This has been happening for a long time: "It's really just gotten worse in the last several years as the number of kids crept up slowly. The state's seen, I think, a 22 percent increase in the total number of children in foster care since 2012. And 2012 was the low, not just for us, but nationally."

Poor recruitment and retainment of foster parents: "Retention is a big issue. A lot of foster parents do drop out after just a couple of years and sometimes there's a good reason for that like they've adopted. They're done building their family or they just became foster parents to adopt a particular child. But in other cases, they tell us it's because they just can't deal with the system. So, the kids are challenging enough, but then on top of that they're dealing with situations where a lot of times they feel disrespected and they're not getting the support they need to be successful."

The impact on kids in the foster system: "I think you don't need to be an expert in child development to know that it's not good for kids to not have at least one stable, nurturing adult in their life. And that's probably even more true for kids who have already experienced uncertainty, instability, trauma. They really need that loving, nuturing relationship in order to be able to heal. It's not just a few nights in a hotel room. What we've seen with a lot of these kids is a pattern where they might be in a hotel, and then maybe they go to a foster home for a couple days, and then they're back in a hotel, and then they're in a different foster home. Then maybe they're in a group home. Then it's just this cycle, and for teenagers maybe there's some periods of running away."

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.