Number of children in foster care continues to increase

Newly released foster care and adoption data show an increase in the number of children in foster care and an increase in the number of adoptions from the U.S. child welfare system.

Announced by the Children’s Bureau at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) show the number of adoptions from foster care increased from 54,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 to 57,000 in FY 2016. The number of children in foster care at the end of FY 2016 increased to 437,500 from the 427,400 reported at the end of FY 2015.

Of the 15 categories states can report for the circumstances associated with a child’s removal from home and placement into care, drug abuse by a parent had the largest percentage point increase, from 32 percent in FY 2015 to 34 percent in FY 2016. Approximately 92,000 children were removed from their home in FY 2016 because at least one parent had a drug abuse issue.

“The continued trend of parental substance abuse is very concerning, especially when it means children must enter foster care as a result,” said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for children and families at ACF. “The seriousness of parental substance abuse, including the abuse of opioids, is an issue we at HHS will be addressing through prevention, treatment and recovery-support measures.”

The Children’s Bureau at ACF recently awarded 18 grants totaling more than $12.5 million to help improve the well-being and permanency outcomes for children, infants and families who are affected by a parent’s or caregiver’s substance misuse, including opioid abuse.

Services provided through the regional partnership grants and the collaborative community court team sites will address needs for families experiencing substance abuse through various activities, such as early intervention, trauma-informed services delivery and family engagement.

“Families of children who come into contact with the child welfare system often are faced with complex problems and this is why we are allowing state and local communities to implement projects that address an array of needs,” said Jerry Milner, acting commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and associate commissioner at the Children’s Bureau. “While our adoptions from foster care numbers are on the rise, reuniting or preventing a child from entering foster care is always our number one goal.”

The awards were made in September through the Regional Partnership Grant Program and the establishment of a National Quality Improvement Center for Collaborative Community Court Teams that will implement and support approaches to address the various needs of families with substance use disorders, including opioid misuse, who come to the attention of child welfare.

Addressing the opioid crisis is one of the three top clinical priorities at HHS, and the Department has committed to using its full expertise and resources to combat the epidemic. In April 2017, HHS launched its comprehensive, evidence-based opioid strategy that provides the overarching framework to leverage the expertise and resources of HHS agencies in a strategic and coordinated manner. The HHS opioid strategy aims to:
 

  • Improve access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services
  • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
  • Support cutting-edge research
  • Advance the practice of pain management

View the FY 2016 AFCARS report can be found at: www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/afcars-report-24.

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All ACF news releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the ACF news page. Follow ACF on Twitter for more updates.

Quick Facts

  • The number of adoptions from foster care increased from 54,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 to 57,000 in FY 2016
  • The number of children in foster care at the end of FY 2016 increased to 437,500 from the 427,400 reported at the end of FY 2015
  • Of the 15 categories states can report for the circumstances associated with a child’s removal from home and placement into care, drug abuse by a parent had the largest percentage point increase, from 32 percent in FY 2015 to 34 percent in FY 2016

Quotes

"The continued trend of parental substance abuse is very concerning, especially when it means children must enter foster care as a result. The seriousness of parental substance abuse, including the abuse of opioids, is an issue we at HHS will be addressing through prevention, treatment and recovery-support measures."
Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
"Families of children who come into contact with the child welfare system often are faced with complex problems and this is why we are allowing state and local communities to implement projects that address an array of needs. While our adoptions from foster care numbers are on the rise, reuniting or preventing a child from entering foster care is always our number one goal."
Jerry Milner, Acting commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau
Last Reviewed: November 30, 2017
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