Shelters too often home for Tucson’s abused kids

Abused and neglected children in Pima County are placed in group homes and emergency shelters rather than foster families at the highest rate in Arizona and more than twice the national average.

Group care, where several children live in a home run by a staff, should be used only for children who need therapy or rehabilitation, said Tracey Feild, director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group.

“You can paint the walls as brightly as you want, but it’s not a family and it’s not a home,” Feild said. “If they don’t need therapy, they shouldn’t be in a group home. They should be with a family.”

Putting a child in a group home should be temporary — a transition to returning home or to foster care, for example. But in Arizona, records show that 90 percent of children and teens in group care aren’t there because they need these extra services — they’re there because of the state’s critical shortage of foster homes.

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