ACF Releases Adoption and Foster Care Data

Child Welfare Statistics Show Continued Foster Care Caseload Decline

New data on adoption and foster care continues to show a steady decline in the number of minors in state child welfare systems.  Released by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the statistics report 400,540 children in foster care, down from 406,412 the prior year and down nearly 25 percent from a decade ago.

The numbers, from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, describe children in foster care during the year, including those who are adopted. Data on their length of time in care, race, gender, family circumstances and other characteristics are collected from each state and released annually by the federal government.  The report covers information through Fiscal Year 2011.

Most notable is that the number of children entering foster care during the year – 252,000 – was the lowest it has been since data has been reported.

“The encouraging news is that fewer children are in foster care settings and fewer children in foster care are waiting to be adopted,” said George H. Sheldon, acting assistant secretary at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families.  “Our challenge continues to be encouraging states to reduce existing foster care caseloads, working to promote the well-being of children who receive child welfare services and re-doubling efforts to promote the adoption of kids from the child welfare system.”

With the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1998, child welfare systems placed a renewed emphasis on achieving positive permanency – including adoption, guardianship or reunification – for children who enter foster care.  In the last several years, more than 50,000 children each year have been adopted from foster care systems.

“While there are many factors contributing to the changes over time in child welfare, the system’s commitment to keeping children safely in their homes whenever possible and moving those in foster care quickly to permanency has clearly had a positive impact on child welfare trends since the passage of ASFA,” said Bryan Samuels, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.

Other highlights of the new Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, or AFCARS, data include:

  • 252,000 children were brought into foster care in Fiscal Year 2011, the lowest number since AFCARS data have been reported. 

  • At the end of Fiscal Year 2011, 104,236 children in foster care were waiting to be adopted, down from 109,456 in Fiscal Year 2010, which is down from 133,682 in Fiscal Year 2007.

View the complete AFCARS report.

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