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Does Privatized Foster Care Put Kids at Risk?

The number of kids in foster care is climbing, and so are public costs. In search of efficiencies, many states have at least partially privatized their systems.
A young resident of a group home for foster children in Los Angeles.
A young resident of a group home for foster children in Los Angeles. Jae C. Hong/AP

In 2012, when Alexandria Hill was a year old, Texas’s child welfare agency found her parents unfit to care for her. The baby’s biological mother was prone to seizures, officials said, and both parents were using marijuana. So the state authorized a for-profit company, The MENTOR Network, to locate foster parents.

The first family MENTOR placed Alexandria with neglected her; when her biological parents complained after finding her filthy at a supervised visit, the company moved her to another home—that of a 53-year-old woman named Sherill Small. Less than a year later, Small killed Alexandria. She told police she’d been frustrated with the girl and swung her until her head crashed into the floor.