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1.2B.7  AFCARS, Data Elements and Definitions, Foster Care Specific Elements, Placements


1.How does a State code a record where the status of the placement changes? For example, if a child is in a foster family home placement setting and that family decides to adopt the child, thus becoming a pre-adoptive home placement setting, how do States record the placement setting, the date of placement, and the number of placements?

2.The internal consistency check for date of placement in current foster care setting states that it must be later than the date of latest removal from home. Can't it also be equal to the date of latest removal?

3.If a child is on a trial home visit or has run away as of the end of the reporting period, what is to be reported in the "Date of placement in current foster care setting" field? (Deleted 07/05/2002)

4.How do States indicate emergency shelter care - as "institution" or "group home?"

5.Please provide a more inclusive definition of Pre-Adoptive Home, Foster Family Home (Non-Relative), Institution and Trial Home Visit.

6."Group homes" as they are called in some States may more closely match the AFCARS definition of "institutions" by their size, so the data reported may look like the State has foster homes and institutions as placements, and nothing much else. Won't this be a problem?

7.Please clarify the meaning of the terms removal, placement, episode, and discharge.

8.For AFCARS reporting purposes what information is entered for a child who returns to a placement setting different than the placement setting from which he/she ran away or left for a trial home visit?

9.Why are trial home visits (which count as placements for element 41 and may last up to 6 months or more) not counted as placements for element 24 - number of placements?

10."Runaway" is an option for a child's "Current Placement Setting"; should it be counted when calculating the answer to, "Number of Previous Placements During This Removal Episode"?

11.For AFCARS reporting purposes what information is entered for a child who returns to the same placement setting from which he/she ran away or left for a trial home visit?

12.The data element, "Number of Previous Placement Settings During This Removal Episode" clearly indictes previous placement settings; however, the definition in the regulation says to include the current placement setting in this count. This seems to be contradictory. Which is correct?

13.Mental health institutions and jails are not normally considered to be the same type of facility. Some States expressed concern with counting them as the same for AFCARS. Why are they counted all the same as "institutions?"

14.If a child goes home on a regular basis (e.g., the child is placed in an institution, but goes home to his or her family on weekends), is this considered two placements each week? (Deleted 07/05/2002)

15.Occasionally a child may be placed in the home of a neighbor or family friend who is in the process of being licensed but is not licensed at the end of the reporting period. In this case, how should that placement setting be coded?

16.How are children in shelter care indicated on the AFCARS questionnaire? (Deleted 07/05/2002)

17.If the provider changes status (e.g. was a county service foster home and changes to a child placement service) and the child remains with the same family is this 1 placement setting or 2 placement settings?

18.If a child is in a foster family home and then goes to a different foster family home, is this one placement or two placements?

19.If a foster family moves to another city or county or State, is the move considered to be a new placement for the child living with the family?

20.The AFCARS definition of "institution" seems different from the definition used for IV-E and adoption programs. Why?

21.How should the State count brief periods spent away from the child's foster care provider in foster care element 24, " Number of previous placement settings during the removal episode"?

22.How should a State count a child's placement back into a previous foster home in foster care element 24, "Number of previous placement settings during the removal episode"? Should a State only increase the number of previous placement settings if the child is placed in a foster care setting in which he has not been placed before?

23.If a child is on a trial home visit or has run away how should the State report this child in AFCARS?

24.Should a State report in AFCARS a child who is under the placement and care responsibility of the State title IV-B/IV-E agency but who has not yet been placed in a foster care setting because the child ran away prior to placement?

25.If a child in foster care moves within a child care institution at a single location (e.g., from one building, dorm, cottage, or wing to another within the institution) should a State report this to AFCARS as a change in placement? Is it relevant whether the child is moving within the institution because of a change in the level of care necessary?


1. Question: How does a State code a record where the status of the placement changes? For example, if a child is in a foster family home placement setting and that family decides to adopt the child, thus becoming a pre-adoptive home placement setting, how do States record the placement setting, the date of placement, and the number of placements?

Answer: The State should change the placement setting to pre-adoptive home. However, the number of placements should not change nor should the date of placement. There is no internal consistency check among these elements and therefore, there will be no error detected with the change of placement even though the number of placements has not increased. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 23, 24, and 41.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ 95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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2. Question: The internal consistency check for date of placement in current foster care setting states that it must be later than the date of latest removal from home. Can't it also be equal to the date of latest removal?

Answer: Yes. The system will not consider it an error if the date of placement in current foster care setting is the same day as the date of latest removal from home. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 23.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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4. Question: How do States indicate emergency shelter care - as "institution" or "group home?"

Answer: Generally, the shelter should be coded as the type of placement that it most closely resembles. Therefore, the size of the facility should determine whether the shelter care is considered as an institution or a group home. It is also possible for an emergency shelter to be coded as relative or non-relative foster care if the shelter is a home.

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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5. Question: Please provide a more inclusive definition of Pre-Adoptive Home, Foster Family Home (Non-Relative), Institution and Trial Home Visit.

Answer: A Pre-Adoptive Home is a home in which the family has been approved to adopt the child. The family may or may not be receiving a foster care payment or an adoption subsidy on behalf of the child. The child is considered in foster care until the adoption has been finalized, that is, a judge has signed the adoption decree.

A Foster Family Home (Non-Relative) is a licensed or approved foster family home regarded by the State as a foster care living arrangement. This placement setting also includes what are referred to in some States as receiving foster homes.

An Institution is a child care facility operated by a public or private agency and providing 24-hour care and/or treatment for children who require separation from their own homes and group living experience. These facilities may include: child care institutions, residential treatment facilities, maternity homes, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.

A Trial Home Visit occurs when the child has been in a foster care placement, but, under continuing State agency supervision, is then returned to the principal caretaker for a limited and specified period of time. If a time period is not specified the child should be identified as having been returned home at the point at which the trial home visit exceeds six months. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix A, Section I, Roman Numeral V, Question A. Also see: Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 41.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-94-01 (7/8/94)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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6. Question: "Group homes" as they are called in some States may more closely match the AFCARS definition of "institutions" by their size, so the data reported may look like the State has foster homes and institutions as placements, and nothing much else. Won't this be a problem?

Answer: For AFCARS' reporting purposes "Group Homes" are defined as substitute care settings which house 12 or fewer children, whereas, an "Institution" provides care for more than 12 children. Given this distinction of size, and if States are consistent in their use of size as a distinguishing factor, it should be clear as to the types of substitute care children are in and should not pose a major problem.

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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7. Question: Please clarify the meaning of the terms removal, placement, episode, and discharge.

Answer: A Removal is either the physical act of a child being taken from his or her normal place of residence, by court order or a voluntary placement agreement and placed in a substitute care setting, or the removal of custody from the parent or relative guardian pursuant to a court order or voluntary placement agreement which permits the child to remain in a substitute care setting.

Placement occurs after removal and is the physical setting in which a child finds himself or herself, that is, the resultant foster care setting. A new Placement setting results when the foster care setting changes, for example, when a child moves from one foster family home to another or to a group home or institution.

An Episode is a removal with one or more placement settings. A previous episode is one that has been completed by a discharge. A current episode is a removal and one or more placement settings without a discharge.

A Discharge represents that point in time when the child is no longer in foster care under the care and responsibility or supervision of the State agency. For AFCARS purposes, situations in which the State retains supervision of a child and the child returns home on a trial basis, for an unspecified period of time, are considered a discharge from foster care after a six month period. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix A, Section I, Roman Numeral III, Questions A and B. Also see: Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 18, 20, and 23.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-94-01 (7/8/94)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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8. Question: For AFCARS reporting purposes what information is entered for a child who returns to a placement setting different than the placement setting from which he/she ran away or left for a trial home visit?

Answer: If the child, after having run away or experienced a trial home visit, returns to a placement setting different than the one he/she ran away from or left for a trial home visit, then the "Date of Placement in Current Foster Care Setting," "Current Placement Setting," and "Number of Previous Placement Settings during this Removal Episode" will be changed. The following information should be entered, "Date of Placement in Current Foster Care Setting" will be changed to the date the child enters the "different" placement setting, "Current Placement Setting" will be changed to the appropriate setting, and "Number of Previous Placement Settings during this Removal Episode" will be increased by one (+1). (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 23, 41, and 24, respectively.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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9. Question: Why are trial home visits (which count as placements for element 41 and may last up to 6 months or more) not counted as placements for element 24 - number of placements?

Answer: Trial home visits and Runaway are the same in that they are recorded as placement settings. This allows the State to more accurately show the physical setting that the child is in at the time the report period ends. However, they are not counted in the number of placements in order to guard against misleading data. For example, in the case of a child in a group home who runs away for one week and then returns to the group home, if the runaway were counted as a placement it would appear that the child had three placements, when actually the agency had only placed the child once. Likewise, if the child was placed in a trial home visit with the intent that the child would be discharged back to the family the trial home visit should not be considered a placement. The number of placements element is meant to gather information on how many times the agency found it necessary to move the child while in foster care. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 24.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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10. Question: "Runaway" is an option for a child's "Current Placement Setting"; should it be counted when calculating the answer to, "Number of Previous Placements During This Removal Episode"?

Answer: No. While it is important for ACF to know the number of children in runaway status at a particular time, "runaway" is not a placement setting and should not be counted as such. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 41 and 24, respectively).

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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11. Question: For AFCARS reporting purposes what information is entered for a child who returns to the same placement setting from which he/she ran away or left for a trial home visit?

Answer: If the child returns to the same placement setting they were in, prior to running away or having the trial home visit, only the "Current Placement Setting" will be changed and it will be changed to the placement setting he/she was in prior to running away or leaving for their trial home visit. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 41.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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12. Question: The data element, "Number of Previous Placement Settings During This Removal Episode" clearly indictes previous placement settings; however, the definition in the regulation says to include the current placement setting in this count. This seems to be contradictory. Which is correct?

Answer: When answering the question, "Number of Previous Placement Settings During This Removal Episode", include the current placement setting. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 24. Also see: Appendix A, Section II, Roman Numeral III, Removal/Placement Setting Indicators.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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13. Question: Mental health institutions and jails are not normally considered to be the same type of facility. Some States expressed concern with counting them as the same for AFCARS. Why are they counted all the same as "institutions?"

Answer: "Institution," as it is used for AFCARS reporting, generally indicates large groups of children, even though we acknowledge that this could represent children in mental health facilities, nursing homes, long-term hospital care, juvenile justice facilities, and many other placement settings serving large numbers of individuals. To assist ACF in clarifying placements, we encourage States to footnote significant percentages, for example, 25% of children in institutional care are in juvenile justice facilities.

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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15. Question: Occasionally a child may be placed in the home of a neighbor or family friend who is in the process of being licensed but is not licensed at the end of the reporting period. In this case, how should that placement setting be coded?

Answer: ACF hopes that it will be a rare occasion when a child is placed in an unlicensed facility. But in those rare cases, code the placement setting as the definition that most closely resembles the placement setting. For this case, the placement setting should be coded as a non-relative foster home. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 41).

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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17. Question: If the provider changes status (e.g. was a county service foster home and changes to a child placement service) and the child remains with the same family is this 1 placement setting or 2 placement settings?

Answer: AFCARS reporting is not concerned with the status of the substitute care provider, only the number of placement setting changes a child experiences. Consequently, the child in the above question does not experience a placement setting change, therefore, no change will be made to "Number of Previous Placement Settings during this Removal Episode", (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 24.)

If a child's placement setting status changes to a setting as defined for AFCARS reporting, e.g., a group home becomes licensed as an institution, then for AFCARS reporting purposes we would request that the child's "Current Placement Setting" be changed as appropriate. However, there would be no change in the "Date of Placement in the Current Foster Care Setting" nor in the "Number of Previous Placements During this Removal Episode". (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 41, 23, and 24 respectively.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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18. Question: If a child is in a foster family home and then goes to a different foster family home, is this one placement or two placements?

Answer: Two placement settings in the current episode. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 24.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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19. Question: If a foster family moves to another city or county or State, is the move considered to be a new placement for the child living with the family?

Answer: If the child remains with the same family, it should not be considered a new placement if the family moves. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 23, 24, and 41.)

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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20. Question: The AFCARS definition of "institution" seems different from the definition used for IV-E and adoption programs. Why?

Answer: The definitional use of institutional care setting for AFCARS was purposely broadened to make it applicable to situations which cannot be recorded in any other manner. But it remains the same for purposes other than AFCARS reporting.

  • Source/Date: ACYF-CB-PIQ-95-01 (3/8/95)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357

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21. Question: How should the State count brief periods spent away from the child's foster care provider in foster care element 24, " Number of previous placement settings during the removal episode"?

Answer: In general, the State is required to count a placement that lasts more than 24 hours while the child is in foster care under the placement, care or supervision responsibility of the State agency. See 45 CFR 1355.40 and CWPM 1.2B.7 and 1.3. This includes moves that may be made on an emergency or unplanned basis, such as shelter care placements, treatment facility placements, and certain placements for juvenile justice purposes. See CWPM 1.3. However, there are certain temporary living conditions that are not placements, but rather represent a temporary absence from the child's ongoing foster care placement. As such, the State must exclude the following temporary absences from the calculation of the number of previous placement settings for foster care element 24.

  • Visitation with a sibling, relative, or other caretaker (i.e., preplacement visits with a subsequent foster care provider or preadoptive parents)
  • Hospitalization for medical treatment, acute psychiatric episodes or diagnosis
  • Respite care
  • Day or summer camps
  • Trial home visits
  • Runaway episodes

  • Source/Date: (5-28-02)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR 1355.40 & appendices; Child Welfare Policy Manual Sections 1.2B.7 and 1.3

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22. Question: How should a State count a child's placement back into a previous foster home in foster care element 24, "Number of previous placement settings during the removal episode"? Should a State only increase the number of previous placement settings if the child is placed in a foster care setting in which he has not been placed before?

Answer: Foster care element 24 is meant to gather information on how many times the agency found it necessary to move the child while in foster care. Therefore, the number of previous placement settings during the removal episode must reflect all placement moves including the current placement and placements into a previous foster care setting, regardless of whether the child was previously placed in that setting. The exception to this policy is with regard to a child who returns to the same foster care setting following a temporary absence that is specifically excluded from the calulation of previous placment settings.(see CWPM 1.2B.7).

  • Source/Date: (5-28-02)
  • Legal and Related References: Appendix A to 45 CFR 1355.40

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23. Question: If a child is on a trial home visit or has run away how should the State report this child in AFCARS?

Answer: The State must indicate the date the child was placed on the trial home visit, or known to have run away from the last placement setting as the "Date of placement in current foster care setting" (foster care element 23). The State must also change the "Current Placement Setting" (foster care element 41) to either "Runaway" or "Trial Home Visit", as appropriate. The State should not increase the "number of previous placement settings during this removal episode" (foster care element 24).

  • Source/Date: (5-28-02)
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479; 45 CFR 1355.40 & appendices

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24. Question: Should a State report in AFCARS a child who is under the placement and care responsibility of the State title IV-B/IV-E agency but who has not yet been placed in a foster care setting because the child ran away prior to placement?

Answer: Yes. The State should report to AFCARS children who are under the placement and care responsibility of the title IV-E agency but who ran away prior to the child?s placement in a foster care setting. In this situation, the State should report the child as having a current placement setting (foster care element #41) of runaway and indicate the date the child ran away as the date of placement in current foster care setting (foster care element #23). Since there has not been an actual placement, the State should indicate a placement count (foster care element #24) of zero.

  • Source/Date: 8/21/2006
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479

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25. Question: If a child in foster care moves within a child care institution at a single location (e.g., from one building, dorm, cottage, or wing to another within the institution) should a State report this to AFCARS as a change in placement? Is it relevant whether the child is moving within the institution because of a change in the level of care necessary?

Answer: No to both questions. The child remains at a single child care institution and placement and the State must not indicate a change in the date of placement in current foster care setting (foster care element 23), number of previous placement settings (foster care element 24) or the current placement setting (foster care element 41) due to such a move.

  • Source/Date: 8/21/2006
  • Legal and Related References: Social Security Act - section 479

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