The U.S. Children’s Bureau has released their FY2015 foster care statistics* which reveal both discouraging challenges and inspiring progress. Below are the top three stats you need to know, including the good, the bad, and how NCFA is responding!
First, let’s get on the same page.
“Foster care” is defined as temporary out-of-home care which is provided by States for children who cannot live with their families. Many children in foster care live in a family setting, such as with a relative, with foster parents, or with pre-adoptive parents. In fact, 30% of children in foster care in FY2015 actually lived with a relative and 54% lived in foster home setting. The remaining 16% lived in group settings, like a group home or institution.
Adoption is not the plan for every child in foster care. A network of professionals – which could include social workers, therapists, judges, guardians ad litem, and more – will work together with a child and his or her family to determine an appropriate case plan goal. For the majority of children (55% this year), that case plan goal is to reunify them with their biological parents or principal caretakers. Adoption is the case plan goal for only about 26% of children in foster care.
So…how has foster care changed this year?
Trend #1: In the past ten years, the number of children in foster care has never grown at such a steep rate.
This year, there were 428,000 children in foster care. That number grew by over 3% in just one year. Since the number of children in foster care dropped every single year between FY2006 and FY2012, it is alarming that this stat is growing, and it’s growing fast.
Trend #2: The number of children waiting to be adopted has grown for the third straight year.
As we mentioned above, only about 26% of children in foster care are waiting to be adopted. This percentage remains fairly stable from year to year. So as the number of children in foster care grows, the volume of children waiting to be adopted also grows. There are now almost 112,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. This number hasn’t been this high since 2009.
Trend #3: The number of children who were adopted is at a six-year high.
In the past year, more than 53,500 children were adopted, which is a 5.8% increase over last year. That is incredible progress. Want to hear more good news? The number of children who “aged out” of foster care without a family dropped for the eighth straight year. In FY2015, 20,789 children were emancipated (or “aged out”), which is a 7% decrease in just one year.
We applaud and thank this year’s adoptive parents and a whole field of professionals for their hard work and dedication to these children. As the need for adoptive families increases, it is heartening to see that so many Americans are opening their hearts and homes to a waiting child.
We also want to recognize the combined efforts of the federal government and an increasing number of states to allow youth to remain in care past age 18. It delays aging out, allowing more time for family-seeking, education, and life skills to be provided in a stable environment. We hope that someday no children will age out of foster care, but we believe delaying the age at which they do is a positive support for these youth.
That being said, we have work to do! What about the children who weren’t adopted this year? How many more days will they spend in foster care? Will they ever be adopted? How can we recruit and train prospective parents to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma and loss? And how can we support families during placements and post-adoption to ensure that children thrive in their new homes?
We’re working on it.
We believe that just one child having to wait for a family is one too many. This year, our foster care system failed more than 20,000 youths who were never placed with a family and 112,000 children who continue to wait. NCFA wants to know what we as a nation can do better in order to: serve children in foster care; recruit, educate, and engage prospective parents; and support foster and adoptive parents post-placement.
We’re starting in Mississippi. NCFA is partnering with the State of Mississippi to document, analyze, and track prospective foster and adoptive families, from their initial expression of interest in fostering or adopting, through training, placement, adoptions, and more. Over time, we will expand this project to other locations and are committed to a long-term study of what’s working, what’s not, and how we can help support foster and adoptive families to ensure they get the education and support they need to be the safe, stable, nurturing resource kids in foster care deserve.
Stay tuned! We will be sharing more details about this exciting project soon!
*The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System’s 2015 fiscal year includes data from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015.