Nevada is one of 16 states that now places more than 90 percent of foster children in family settings. (Mitchell Findley)

CARSON CITY – Foster children in Nevada are finding new families more often these days, with the rate of family placements improving by five percentage points over a ten-year period, according to a new report.

Hear an audio report from Suzanne Potter.

The new Annie E. Casey Foundation research shows Nevada went from placing 89% of its 4,400 foster children into family settings in 2007, up to 94% in 2017.

Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform with the Casey Foundation, chalks up much of the improvement to a strong push to favor placing kids with family members who are willing to step in and rescue them from neglect or abuse.

“One of the main reasons why we’re seeing this improvement is that states are placing more children with relatives,” said Geen. “When a child can’t live with their own birth families, a relative is always the first choice, and states are doing a much better job with that.”

The report found a child’s age remains a major factor in whether they will spend a significant amount of time in a group home. It said kids age 12 or younger are much more likely to get a family placement compared to teens.

However, Nevada is doing better on that score than many other states, managing to place at least 73% of teens and older children in families, and only 20% in group homes.

Aaliyah Goodie, a data analyst with the Children’s Advocacy Alliance of Nevada cheers the trend toward more stable placements for foster children. But she notes that racial disparities persist.

“Overall nationally, 81% of African-American black children were placed in family settings, but 87% of those white children were placed within families,” Goodie said.

President Donald Trump signed a bill last year into law known as the Family First Prevention Services Act. It places restrictions on federal dollars going to group homes, in an effort to prod states into finding alternative placements.