Although data are limited, it appears that in 1997, approximately 200,000 children were in the care of foster parents who were related to them (Geen and Clark, 1999).8 Table 1 provides data from 39 States on the number of children in public kinship care on March 31, 1998. Among these States, public kinship care accounted for 29 percent of all children in foster care and 37 percent of children placed in family foster care (as opposed to group homes or institutional care). However, the use of kin as foster parents varies greatly. In 11 of the States providing data, public kinship care accounted for less than one-tenth of all children in foster care, while in four States it accounted for more than one-third. Several of the largest States (California, Florida, Illinois, and New York) used kin as foster parents at relatively high rates and account for almost half of all children in public kinship care (97,504 children).
These figures include only children in State custody. States have not maintained data on the number of relatives who voluntarily care for children who have been reported as abused or neglected. However, data from the National Survey of America’s Families (NSAF) suggest that such voluntary placements are quite common.9 In 1997, social services agencies helped arrange for over 283,000 children to live with relatives outside of the foster care system.
Because States’ data are scarce, it is difficult to estimate how fast public kinship care has increased—but available evidence suggests that it increased substantially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the 25 States that do have data, the proportion of children in public kinship care increased from 18 to 31 percent between 1986 and 1990 (see Table 2). Three States (California, Illinois, and New York) accounted for most of this growth. Additional data from these States show that the trend continued through 1993.10 As for the nation as a whole, 37 of 50 States responding to a 1997 Urban Institute survey said that their use of public kinship care increased somewhat (23) or significantly (14) over the past three years (Boots and Geen, 1998).
Table 1. Children in Public Kinship Care on March 31, 1998
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analysis of data from the Adoption and Foster
Care Analysis and Reporting System, 1998.
*Children in care as of September 30, 1997 (updated data are not available).
†Children in care as of September 30, 1997 (only limited updates are available).