Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. PF 2.3 Foster care

04/01/1997

 
A child is placed in foster care when a court determines that his or her family cannot provide a minimally safe environment. This determination often follows an investigation by a state or county child protective services worker. Placement most commonly occurs either because a member of a household has physically or sexually abused a child or because a childs caretaker(s) has severely neglected the child. In some cases, children with severe emotional disturbances may also be put into foster care.

Since both federal and state laws discourage removal of children from their families unless necessary to ensure a childs safety, placement in foster care is an extreme step taken only when a child is in immediate danger or when attempts to help the family provide a safe environment have failed. Thus, the frequency of placements in foster care is an indicator of family dysfunction that is so severe that a child cannot remain safely with his or her family.

The number of children in foster care rose sharply from 262 thousand in 1982 to 462 thousand in 1994. As shown in Figure PF 2.3, the rate of children living in foster care (i.e., the number of children in foster care per one thousand children under age 18) also rose dramatically during the same time period, from 4.2 foster children per one thousand children under age 18 in 1982 to 6.8 in 1994 an increase of over 60 percent. Between 1990 and 1994, the rate of children in foster care continued to increase, but at a slower pace.

 

Figure PF 2.3 
Children Living in Foster Care: 19821994 (Rate per thousand) 

FIGPF2_3.GIF

Note: Estimate of total is the number of children in foster care on the last day of the fiscal year. 1994 is the last year in which data on foster care was collected through the Voluntary Cooperative Information System (VCIS). The Administration on Children and Families (ACF) has implemented the Adoption and Foster are Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) as a replacement for VCIS. While VCIS was a voluntary reporting system, states are required to participate in AFCARS and must use uniform definitions. Most importantly, AFCARS collects case-level foster care data. Thus, the new system may bring about a significant change in estimates of children in foster care. However, the first release of data from AFCARS show no significant change in estimates of children in foster care.

Source: Tatara, Tashio. U.S. Child Substitute Care Flow Data for FY 1993 and Trends in the State Child Substitute Care Populations, VCIS Research Notes, No. 11, August 1995. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1995 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995).

 

Table PF 2.3  
Number and Rate (per thousand) of Children Living in Foster Care: 19821994

 
 
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total Number
(in thousands)
262
269
270
270
280
300
340
383
400
414
427
445
462
                           
Rate 
(per thousand)
4.2
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.5
4.8
5.4
6
6.3
6.4
6.5
6.6
6.8
                           
Note: Estimate of total is the number of children in foster care on the last day of the fiscal year. 1994 is the last year in which data on foster care was collected through the Voluntary Cooperative Information System (VCIS). The Administration on Children and Families (ACF) has implemented the Adoption and Foster are Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) as a replacement for VCIS. While VCIS was a voluntary reporting system, states are required to participate in AFCARS and must use uniform definitions. Most importantly, AFCARS collects case-level foster care data. Thus, the new system may bring about a significant change in estimates of children in foster care. However, the first release of data from AFCARS show no significant change in estimates of children in foster care. 

Source: Tatara, Tashio. "U.S. Child Substitute Care Flow Data for FY 1993 and Trends in the State Child Substitute Care Populations," VCIS Research Notes, No. 11, August 1995. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1995 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995).

 

7 For purposes of this report "foster care" is defined as a living arrangement where a child resides outside his/her own home, under the case management and planning responsibility of a state child welfare agency. These living arrangements include relative and non-relative foster homes, group homes, child care facilities, emergency shelter care, supervised independent living, and non-finalized adoptive homes.
 
 

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