The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released the most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data report, showing that there were 400,540 children in foster care as of September 30, 2011. The number is down from 406,412 in 2010. The number dropped for the sixth straight year, demonstrating the power of reforms and evidence-based practices, even amid economic upheaval in state agencies. The drop of almost 25% of the out-of-home care population since 2002 can be attributed to changes in policies and practices throughout state and county child welfare agencies. To attain this unprecedented decline, agencies have worked to shorten the number of days in foster care, expedited children to adoptions and expanded preventative support for families to avoid removal from occurring.
The state-to-state comparison provides a mixture of states that have experienced dramatic declines and other states that have seen numbers rising.
States experiencing reductions included
- Pennsylvania - the children in foster care dropped from 15,346 (2010) to 14,161
- New York - the number of children in foster care dropped from 26,783 to 21,476
Both states have instituted programs to reduce the number – increased placements with relatives, more resources to family preservation, and more timely family reunification whenever possible.
States realizing increases included
- Arizona- the number of children in foster care rose to 11,535 from 9,030 in 2010
- Georgia – the number of children in foster care rose to 7,633 from 7,023 in 2010
In Arizona, the state child welfare agency cites difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified child welfare case managers as a key to the significant increase in just one year. Georgia, on the other hand, has experienced significant budget cuts. Both states have seen an increase in child protection referrals as a result of the economic struggles in each state.
Other key aspects of the AFCARS report released indicate that as of September 30, 2011
- There were 104,236 children awaiting adoption.
- The average age of children in foster care was 9.3 years
- The largest percentage of children (47%) in foster care was residing in non-relative foster family homes, followed by 27% in relative foster family homes.
- The largest percentage of children (52%) had reunification with parents or primary caregivers as placement goal.
- Of the children in foster care, 41% were White, 27% were Black and 21% were Hispanic