Using the foster care placement files, we next examined the question of how many children experienced an adoption disruption, that is, had placements coded as an adoptive home but ultimately were not adopted. Among the 54,747 children entering care for the first time between July 1, 1989 and June 30, 2001, 463 had a first placement recorded as an adoptive home. A full 77 percent of these children subsequently exited placement to adoption; 5 percent remained in care. A larger group of children (2,657) entered foster care for reasons other than adoption but were subsequently placed in an adoptive home. The majority of these children (59 percent) exited placement to adoption; 10 percent remained in care. The remaining children (18 percent of initial placements and 31 percent of subsequent placements in adoptive homes) may have experienced disruptions or had changes in their adoption plans for other reasons, including reunification, emancipation, running away, or a conversion to a guardianship. At this time, we cannot determine the ultimate case status of these children who had an adoption plan, but these data will be available in future years.
Although these analyses offer some insights, note that the majority of children (65 percent) who achieve permanency through adoption are never placed in an identified adoptive home. These are most likely foster children who are adopted by foster parents without ever having been identified in the data system as changing status from foster to adoptive homes. Considering all adopted children, then, the data do not support an effort to precisely estimate adoption disruption rates in North Carolina. They do indicate, however, that this will become more possible in the future.