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Two New Reports Describe Patterns of Children’s Experiences in Child Welfare System

Adoption, Foster care, Youth

Photo of two teen girls.The first report shows that the more time children spend in foster care, the more likely they are to stay. After 12 to 18 months in foster care, children’s chances of leaving decrease rapidly. After 36 to 42 months in foster care, the chances of leaving are extremely low. Age also matters. Compared with younger children, those placed in foster care at age 12 or older were more likely to stay in foster care rather than find a permanent placement.

The second report examines outcomes for children 18 months after the close of a child welfare investigation.  During this period, more than a fifth of children were placed out of home.  Of these, more than a quarter had multiple placements. Older children had more placements and longer stays. Among children placed out of home, nearly a half reached a permanent placement such as reunification with parents, placement with relatives, adoption or guardianship. 

These reports use data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a longitudinal study about the functioning, service needs, and service use of children who come in contact with the child welfare system. The study examines the well-being of children involved with child welfare agencies; captures information about the investigation of abuse or neglect that brought the child into the study; collects information about the child’s family; provides information about child welfare interventions and other services; and describes key characteristics of child development.

Naomi Goldstein is director of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of ACF programs.

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