Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 2. State-level Information and Trends


The first section of this report summarizes information and trends on permanency and reunification in 25 states. Westat and Chapin Hall Center for Children staff spoke to state administrators in 25 states to update information on permanency and reunification policy and practices. Topics discussed included: state system structure, permanency options in the state, state viewpoints on permanency and reunification, service provider structure, changes in the state prompted by ASFA, current child welfare initiatives, and future options for permanency and reunification for families. For a list of all the states included in the report and additional information on individual states, see Appendix A.

State administrators were asked to describe their child welfare system structure to provide context for further state information on permanency and reunification. Data provided by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Annual Foster Care Database and Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) Yearbook provide an illustration of the number of children in out-of-home care in their states. Estimates indicate that those states contacted for information represented a good cross-section of states across the country regarding the number of children out-of-home.

Table 3-1.
Number of Children in Out-of-Home Care
  Number of Children in Out-of-Home Placement(a)
Less than 5,000 children in care 5,000-9,999 children in care 10,000 - 14,999 children in care 15,000 - 20,000 children in care Over 20,000 children in care
Number of States Contacted 4 10 4 3 4

a.  Data from the AFCARS Annual Foster Care Database, FY 1998 and from the 1999 CWLA Child Abuse and Neglect Stat Book.

Individual state data on the number of children in out-of-home placement are presented in Appendix A.

Administrators were also asked about the structure of the child welfare system. The 25 states were divided between state-administered systems and those that are state supervised but county administered. Of the 25 states, 15 had state-administered child welfare systems, while 10 had county- administered systems.

Within the two general types of administrative structures, there were a variety of sub-structures within states, ranging from systems with strong state management over service delivery to systems where states give autonomy in service delivery to the local level. Many states reported an increasing amount of autonomy being passed to the county and local levels. However, even with the trend of devolution, states tend to maintain control of child welfare through policy and funding and assure compliance with state and federal regulations and requirements.