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For years, child welfare experts have claimed that foster kids do better when they are placed with their imperfect relatives instead of with perfect strangers. Now, a landmark study out of the University of Illinois confirms it. Kids in the Illinois foster care system who were placed with extended family were only about half as likely to suffer new abuse or neglect than kids placed with strangers.

This report is in line with a growing body of research showing that children placed in kinship care do better, feel less traumatized and feel more loved than kids who wind up living with a new, unrelated family.

But New York City is heading in the opposite direction. The number of kids placed with extended family has plummeted from 22,250 in June 1991 to 11,024 in June 1999, even as the overall number of kids in the system has skyrocketed.

More details on the study and the trend are available in this week’s Child Welfare Watch news brief, the first in a three-part series on family-based foster care. The bulletin, available tomorrow, inaugurates a free bi-monthly fax news brief on family and child welfare issues. To subscribe to the Child Welfare Watch news brief, call Shalini Ahuja at 212-479-3338 or e-mail

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