Substance Abuse Impacts Foster Care, Adoption New “AFCARS” data released

National foster care and adoption data show the number of children in foster care, and children waiting to be adopted, has increased. While the number of children in foster care has increased for the last five years, the magnitude of each annual increase is becoming smaller, and the numbers of children achieving permanency through adoption has increased for the third year in a row.

Released 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) indicate the number of children in foster care increased to approximately 443,000 at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 from 436,500 reported at the end of FY 2016. The number of children waiting to be adopted also increased to 123,400 in FY 2017 compared to 116,600 in FY 2016.

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 34 percent in FY 2016 to 36 percent in FY 2017. Slightly more than 96,700 children were removed from their home in FY 2017 because at least one parent had a drug abuse issue.

“To improve the well-being of children affected by substance abuse, our agency has designed programs that specifically work with families to help with early intervention, family engagement and trauma-informed service delivery for caregivers and parents dealing with a substance use disorders,” said Lynn Johnson, HHS’s assistant secretary for children and families. “This collaborative work with state and local child welfare agencies, substance abuse treatment agencies and courts helps us deliver these essential services to children and families with the goal of decreasing the number of children having to enter care.”

The Children’s Bureau at ACF recently awarded ten grants totaling approximately $19 million to help improve the well-being of children affected by a parent’s or caregiver’s substance use disorder through the regional partnership grant program. The grants are designed to address barriers of families experiencing substance abuse through various activities, such as creating or expanding family treatment drug courts, expanding access to comprehensive family-centered treatment options, and using evidence-based practice approaches, such as parent advocates and recovery management for drug treatment monitoring. ACF has awarded 101 regional partnership grant programs since 2007.

The number of children exiting foster care decreased slightly in FY 2017 to 247,600 compared to FY 2016’s 248,900, which is the first decline in five years. The number of adoptions with U.S. child welfare involvement increased to over 59,400 compared to the 57,200 finalized adoptions in FY 2016, and the number of children waiting to be adopted for whom there was a termination of parental rights increased in FY 2017 to about 69,500 compared to 65,500 in FY 2016.

“We are very happy that the rate of increase in the number of children in foster care is less than the prior year, and hope this is attributable to a greater focus on primary prevention of child maltreatment,” said Jerry Milner, acting commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and associate commissioner at the Children’s Bureau. “Our goal is to keep families together and, when foster care placement is absolutely necessary, to reunify children back to safe and loving family conditions whenever possible. We can do this by addressing underlying behavioral and social issues through preventive and in-home services so children do not have to enter into care and become separated from their families.”

The Family First Prevention Services Act, signed into law earlier this year, focuses on the redistribution and reimbursement of state and tribal child welfare funding for preventive child welfare services. These services include substance use treatment, in-home parenting skill training and mental health services for children and families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The new law also focuses on reducing the placement of children in group homes and in congregate care.

The FY 2017 AFCARS report can be found at: (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/afcars-report-25). Additional information about the Family First Prevention Services Act can be found at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/pi1807.

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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 children in foster care increased to approximately 443,000 at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 from 436,500 reported at the end of FY 2016.
  • The number of children waiting to be adopted increased to 123,400 in FY 2017 compared to 116,600 in FY 2016.
  • 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 34 percent in FY 2016 to 36 percent in FY 201
  • Slightly more than 96,700 children were removed from their home in FY 2017 because at least one parent had a drug abuse issue.
  • The Children’s Bureau at ACF recently awarded ten grants totaling approximately $19 million to help improve the well-being of children affected by a parent’s or caregiver’s substance use disorder through the regional partnership grant program.

Quotes

“To improve the well-being of children affected by substance abuse, our agency has designed programs that specifically work with families to help with early intervention, family engagement and trauma-informed service delivery for caregivers and parents dealing with a substance use disorders. This collaborative work with state and local child welfare agencies, substance abuse treatment agencies and courts helps us deliver these essential services to children and families with the goal of decreasing the number of children having to enter care.”
Lynn Johnson, HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“We are very happy that the rate of increase in the number of children in foster care is less than the prior year, and hope this is attributable to a greater focus on primary prevention of child maltreatment. Our goal is to keep families together and, when foster care placement is absolutely necessary, to reunify children back to safe and loving family conditions whenever possible. We can do this by addressing underlying behavioral and social issues through preventive and in-home services so children do not have to enter into care and become separated from their families.”
Jerry Milner, Acting Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau
Last Reviewed: November 8, 2018
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