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  • New data show 1st foster care decrease since 2011, record number of adoptions

    National annual foster care and adoption data show the number of children in foster care, although still very high, dropped for the first year since 2011. The number of children achieving permanency through adoption increased for the fourth year in a row to its highest level ever. And the number of children entering foster care dropped for the second year in a row after going up every year since 2013.

    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) show the number of children in foster care decreased to approximately 437,300 at the end of FY 2018 from 441,000 reported at the end of FY 2017. The number of children entering care in FY 2018 dropped to 263,000 compared to 270,000 in FY 2017.

    The number of adoptions with U.S. child welfare agency involvement increased to over 63,100 in FY 2018 compared to the 59,500 finalized adoptions in FY 2017. This is the largest number of adoptions reported by AFCARS since AFCARS data collection began in FY 1995.

    “It is encouraging to see the first decrease since 2011 in the number of children in foster care,” said Lynn Johnson, HHS’ assistant secretary for children and families. “This administration has focused on primary prevention and adoption, and we are starting to see some better results.”

    “Helping families receive the care and services they need before the involvement of a child welfare agency can help prevent a child from entering foster care,” said Elizabeth Darling, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. “I am thankful for all of the local, state and federal agencies who work hard every day to find the safest solution for our children.”

    Although the number of adoptions in the most recent year set a new record, the number of children waiting to be adopted increased to 125,400 in FY 2018 compared to 123,800 in FY 2017. HHS’ Administration for Children and Families recently released new public service announcements promoting adoption from foster care, which will be broadcast and run around the country.

    Remaining stable with FY 2017 numbers, in FY 2018, 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 represented 36 percent of child placements into foster care. Approximately 94,400 children were removed from their home in FY 2018 because of parental substance abuse. Neglect continues to be the main reason why a child is removed from a home and placed into foster care. In FY 2018 163,500 children were removed from their home because of neglect, a decrease from nearly 167,000 in FY 2017.

    “The current decrease in the number of kids entering care, and those in care, is promising,” said Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau. “As our agency funds prevention projects we hope to see a continued indication that child welfare systems are relying less on foster care and serving more children and families in their home and communities.”

    Recently, the Children’s Bureau awarded nearly $25 million to nine community-based projects to help prevent child maltreatment and reduce entries into foster care. Through the Community Collaborations to Strengthen and Preserve Families grant, organizations will be able to develop, implement and evaluate primary prevention strategies based on the strengths and needs of the designated communities. Project activities and strategies for the community collaborations grant project will also reflect the Children’s Bureau’s priorities to strengthen families’ protective capacities through a partnership of primary prevention networks and community-based services and supports with a focus on improving the overall health and well-being of children and families.

    Quick Facts

    • National annual foster care and adoption data show the number of children in foster care, although still very high, dropped for the first year since 2011.
    • The number of children in foster care decreased to approximately 437,300 at the end of FY 2018 from 441,000 reported at the end of FY 2017.
    • The number of children entering care in FY 2018 dropped to 263,000 compared to 270,000 in FY 2017.
    • The number of adoptions with U.S. child welfare agency involvement increased to over 63,100 in FY 2018 compared to the 59,500 finalized adoptions in FY 2017.

    Quotes

    “It is encouraging to see the first decrease since 2011 in the number of children in foster care."
    Lynn Johnson, HHS’s assistant secretary for children and families
    “This administration has focused on primary prevention and adoption, and we are starting to see some better results.”
    Lynn Johnson, HHS’s assistant secretary for children and families
    “Helping families receive the care and services they need before the involvement of a child welfare agency can help prevent a child from entering foster care."
    Elizabeth Darling, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families
    “I am thankful for all of the local, state and federal agencies who work hard every day to find the safest solution for our children.”
    Elizabeth Darling, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families

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    Last Reviewed: October 24, 2019
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