Data on Health and Well-being of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Other Native Americans. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

12/01/2006

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
Description: The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) provides child-specific information on all children covered by the protections of Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. On a semi-annual basis, all states submit data to the U.S. Childrens Bureau concerning each child in foster care and each child who has been adopted under the authority of the states child welfare agency. The AFCARS databases have been designed to address policy development and program management issues at both the state and federal levels. The data are also useful for researchers interested in analyzing aspects of the United States foster care and adoption programs.

For each year since 1995, there are two AFCARS files, one containing adoption data and the other containing foster care data. These annual files are constructed from the states semi-annual data submissions. The adoption file contains 45 data elements concerning the adopted childs gender, race, birth date, ethnicity and prior relationship with the adoptive parents. The date the adoption was finalized, dates parental rights were terminated, characteristics of birth and adoptive parents, and whether the child was placed from within the United States or from another country are also captured. The foster care file contains 89 elements providing information on child demographics including gender, birth date, race, and ethnicity. Information about the number of previous stays in foster care, service goals, availability for adoption, dates of removal and discharge, funding sources, and the biological and foster parents is also included in the foster care files.

Relevant Policy Issues: Measurement of Health Status, Measures of Well-being for Children, Factors Contributing to Well-being Disparities of Children, and Child Maltreatment Rates.
Data Type(s): Registry
Unit of Analysis: Individual (child)
Identification of AI/AN/NA: Instructions for states reporting race are: In general, a persons race is determined by how others define them or by how they define themselves. In the case of young children, parents determine the race of the child. Data entry staff are to indicate all races that apply.

Definitions of racial categories include:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America or South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NH/PI) is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
  • Asian A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East,
  • Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia,
  • China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Black or African American A person having origins in any of the black racial
  • groups of Africa.
  • White A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the
  • Middle East, or North Africa.
AI/AN/NA Population in Data Set: For FY 2003, number of children in foster care:

TOTAL: 523,000
AI/AN non-Hispanic: 10,260
NH/PI non-Hispanic: 1,540

For FY 2003, number of children waiting to be adopted:

TOTAL: 119,000
AI/AN non-Hispanic: 2,190
NH/PI non-Hispanic: 340

For FY 2003, number of children who were adopted:

TOTAL: 50,000
AI/AN non-Hispanic: 700
NH/PI non-Hispanic: 130

Geographic Scope: The geographic scope of the AFCARS is national. A state indicator is available for all records on both the adoption and foster care files. For foster care data, the geographic Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) codes for the local county agency responsible for the case are available for all children in counties with more than 1,000 records. (If county has less than 1,000 records, FIPS codes are excluded for reasons of confidentiality.) Limited geographic analysis is possible by state and county.
Date or Frequency: States are required to submit AFCARS data semi-annually to ACF. The AFCARS reporting periods are October 1 through March 31 and April 1 through September 30. Data for each reporting period are due no later than May 15 and November 14, respectively. An annual file is constructed from the two semi-annual files.

Data collection has been ongoing since 1995, although use of the data prior to 1998 is discouraged. The period from 1995 to 1997 was a start-up phase for AFCARS. Many states were still developing their information systems and were unable to submit data. Other states were able to submit data, but the quality was either missing or poor on many of the data elements. Therefore, pre-1998 data sets are not as complete or reliable as the data for subsequent years. Since 1998, participation by the states has been universal and the data quality has improved dramatically. The most recent data available are for FY2004.

Data Collection Methodology: States submit case-level reports electronically to AFCARS.
Participation: Mandatory
Response Rate: By 1999, all states (plus the District of Columbia (DC) and Puerto Rico) had submitted adoption data. By 2001, all states, DC and Puerto Rico had submitted foster care data.
Authorization: Under the final AFCARS rule, states are required to collect data on all adopted children covered by Title IV-B/E of the Social Security Act.
Strengths: AFCARS data sets contain a large number of AI/AN/NA respondents. The data are collected on key policy issues, including child welfare. There are multiple years of data available. The documentation is thorough and clear. Mandatory reporting means high compliance among states.
Limitations: While data collection began in 1995, use of the data prior to 1998 is discouraged.

Tribal agencies who place children for adoption voluntarily report data to AFCARS. Since these adoptions do not involve a state agency, these records are not included in the publicly available version of the data.

A 2003 report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and entitled Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS): Challenges and Limitations reports there is some inconsistency in the definition of data elements, most notably problems with placement and date-of-discharge definitions.

Other: In 2000, technical changes to the race/ethnicity data elements in AFCARS were made. Previously, race categories were mutually exclusive, but starting in 2000 children could be classified as multi-racial.
Access Requirements and Use Restrictions: Researchers need to complete and submit a Terms of Use Agreement.
Contact Information: The data set is available through the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell University: http://www.ndacan.cornell.edu.
National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect
Beebe Hall - FLDC
Cornell University
Ithaca NY 14853
Phone: (607) 255-7799
Fax: (607) 255-8562
E-Mail: NDACAN@cornell.edu

 

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