Trends in Foster Care and Adoption

Merle GuttermanAdoption

Numbers of Children in Foster Care

After declining by nearly 15% percent between FY 2008 and FY 2012 to a low of 396,000, the number of children in foster care on the last day of each fiscal year since has shown an increase. However, based on the most recent data the magnitude of these increases is decreasing. Specifically, the percent increases in the most recent years were as follows; FY 2017-1.4% increase, FY 2016-2.3% increase and FY 2015-3.1% increase.

Entries into and Exits from Foster Care

Trends for children entering the system follow a similar pattern. Beginning with FY 2008, the number of entries to care generally declined through FY 2012 to 251,000. The entries increased slightly to 255,000 in FY 2013 and continued to rise to 273,000 in FY 2016. FY 2017 represents a small decrease to 270,000, the first decline in 5 years. FY 2008’s 287,000 exits represents the largest number of exits in the last decade. The number of exits, for the most part, steadily decreased to 236,000 in FY 2014. The number of exits increased consecutively for two years since FY 2014 to 249,000 in FY 2016. However, FY 2017’s 248,000 represents little change in the number of exits.

Children Waiting to be Adopted

The numbers of children waiting to be adopted are a subset of those in care on the last day. As numbers of children in care were declining, the numbers waiting for adoption declined, as well. Similarly, in the last five years a significant increase in the numbers of children waiting for adoption has been observed, moving from a low in FY 2012 of 100,000 up to 123,000 in FY 2017. Despite the rise in the numbers, the percentage of children who are defined as waiting to be adopted has remained stable over the last decade, averaging between 26 and 28% of children in
care on the last day.

Children Waiting to be Adopted Whose Parents’ Rights Were Terminated

The percentage of children waiting to be adopted whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated has shown a continuous decline, from 63% in FY 2008 to 56% in FY 2016. Nonetheless, the decreases in the percentages have been minimum since FY 2012, in particular (much less than one percentage point per year). The percentage for FY 2017 is unchanged at 56%. Each FY since 2013 there has been an increase in the absolute numbers of children whose parents’ rights were terminated, increasing from 58,400 in FY 2012 to 69,500 in FY 2017.

Children Adopted

The number of adoptions that are finalized each year has remained relatively flat (ranging between 50,700 to 53,600) over the last decade, with the exception of FY 2009 and FY 2016, when the numbers rose to over 57,000. Since FY 2014 the numbers of adoptions each year have increased over the previous year to FY 2017’s current high of 59,400. During the last decade as a proportion of the exits, adoption has remained very stable, during the first 7 years making up about 21% of the discharges each year. Nonetheless, since FY 2014, the numbers of adoptions as a
proportion of exits has exceeded 21%, reaching a high of 24% for FY 2017.

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