For more information contact:
Senior Attorney, NCYL
(510) 835-8098 X 3016
Senior Attorney, NCYL
Director of Communications, NCYL
(510) 835-8098 X 3013
California Assembly Member Karen Bass
County Rankings Show Wide Disparity in Performance Among Counties
An analysis done by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) shows that every one of California’s 58 counties has failed at least two of six federal standards for ensuring the safety of children who have suffered abuse or neglect. Several counties have failed every measure. In addition, NCYL’s analysis shows that the level of care and protection afforded each child is largely an accident of geography, hinging on political boundaries rather than on that child’s particular needs.
Using both state and federal performance data supplied by the California Department of Social Services (DSS), NCYL analyzed how well counties ensure the safety and stability of child victims of abuse and neglect. An overall ranking (1 through 58, with 1 representing the best) shows that even within the same region and among contiguous counties, the data reflect wide disparities in performance. Demographics such as population, caseload size, or a county’s relative wealth or poverty do not necessarily affect the quality of care a child receives.
NCYL’s data analysis found that among the worst performing large counties in the state are San Francisco (52), San Joaquin (41), San Bernardino (39), Sacramento (39), Fresno (37), and Los Angeles (36); medium counties, Del Norte (57), Imperial (56), Tuolumne (52), and Mendocino (50); and small counties, Mariposa (58), Lassen (55), and Inyo (54).
Both the best and worst performing counties were in the small size group (101 children in care or less), with Mariposa County ranked 58, and Amador County ranked 1.
The best performing large counties were Contra Costa (8), Tulare (12), Orange (16), and Riverside (25); medium counties, Monterey (2), Shasta (5), El Dorado (6), Santa Cruz (7), and Stanislaus (8); and small counties, Amador (1), Nevada (3), Glenn (4), Mono (8), and Plumas (11).
An examination of Bay Area Counties illustrates how contiguous counties provide widely differing levels of protection and care. Contra Costa is in the top best performing counties in the state, Alameda and Marin are in the middle, and San Francisco is near the bottom. Only six other counties in the state performed worse than San Francisco.
NCYL determined the rankings based on each county’s overall performance on 12 measures - an equal number of federal and state measures that address the safety, stability, and permanency of children in care:
- Recurrence of abuse or neglect
- Incidence of abuse or neglect in foster care
- Number of times a child is moved while in foster care
- Length of time to reunification or adoption
NCYL’s analysis found that:
11,000 children are abused or neglected again within one year, and more than 450 children suffer abuse or neglect in foster care
Only 14 of the 58 counties met or exceeded the federal standard for placement stability, with more than 5,000 children being shuttled through three or more placements during their first year in care
Nearly 4,000 children placed in foster care had been in care at least once before. More than one-third of the children re-entering care were age 5 or younger.
NCYL’s Report makes recommendations to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children, including statewide coordination of child welfare and foster care programs. These recommendations are included in AB 2216 (Assembly Member Karen Bass), which is under consideration by the Legislature this year.
While the state has claimed recent improvements in its child welfare system, the pace of those improvements has been slow and their continuation uncertain.
“The state made a promise to protect abused and neglected children, and to ensure their well-being while in foster care,” said NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm. “That promise needs to be kept to this generation of children, not delayed to the next.”
FOR A COPY OF THE FULL REPORT Broken Promises (PDF) 1.5 MB, 66 pages.