Understanding Foster Parenting: Using Administrative Data to Explore Retention. Number and Characteristics of Licensed Homes


Both Oklahoma and Oregon experienced net growth in foster home resources over the years studied, as shown in Table 3-1.(1)  Oklahoma experienced a 27 percent net growth over 6 years, and Oregon more than doubled the number of foster parent licenses over the 20 years reported. However, this growth occurred in the context of substantial turnover. The average number of licenses ending during year, as a proportion of active licenses, was 26 percent for Oklahoma and 21 percent for Oregon.

A graphic presentation of these data suggests the substantial efforts required to replace exiting foster homes each year to maintain and increase the number of available homes, and the high proportion of new, less experienced homes. Figure 3-1, for Oklahoma, and Figure 3-2, for Oregon, show the high proportion of licensed homes that were available for only part of the year because the license began or ended during the year.

Table 3-1.
Trends in Foster Parent Licenses
  Oklahoma Oregon
Years of data 1996-2001 1983-2002
Net change +27% +134%
Average turnover rate 26% 21%
Note: Turnover was calculated as annual exits divided by number of active licenses at end of year.

Figure 3-1. Changes in Licensed Foster Parents,

Figure 3-1. Changes in Licensed Foster Parents, Oklahoma.

Some foster homes may become unavailable because foster parents have adopted the children in their care. Figures 3-3 and 3-4 compare the number of ending licenses, adoptive placements, and adoption finalizations for Oklahoma and Oregon, respectively.(2) These data are also shown in Tables A-2 and A-6 in Appendix A. Both figures show increasing exits from foster parenting during years in which the number of adoptive placements or finalizations increased. Although not all adoptions are by foster parents, the parallel trends suggest a possible relationship between increased exits from foster parenting and adoptions by foster parents. However, none of the states' databases allowed comprehensive identification of children who were adopted by foster parents, which would have supported analyses of the length of service for these foster parents.

Figure 3-2. Changes in Licensed Foster Parents,

Figure 3-2. Changes in Licensed Foster Parents, Oregon.

Figure 3-3. Ending Licenses and Adoptions,

Figure 3-3. Ending Licenses and Adoptions, Oklahoma.

Note: Data on adoptive placements and finalizations provided by Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Figure 3-4. Ending Licenses and Adoptions, Oregon

Figure 3-4. Ending Licenses and Adoptions, Oregon.

Note: Data on adoptive placements and finalizations provided by Oregon Department of Human Services.
Data for adoptive placements only were available for 1997-1999; data for finalized adoptions only were available for 2000-2002.


Data on the characteristics of licensed foster parents over the years studied are included as Appendix A. These analyses have been reported in detail to each state and are only summarized in this report. New Mexico data (Table A-1) do not include enough years of data to identify trends.

Oklahoma and Oregon showed contrasting patterns in the use of restricted licenses. As noted in Section 2.1, these foster homes provide care only to specific children. As defined programmatically in Oklahoma, and specified analytically for Oregon data, this category excludes relative foster care. In Oklahoma, these homes increased from 2 percent of all licenses in 1996 to 13 percent in 2001, after having reached a peak of 16 percent of licenses in 1999 (Table A-3). In Oregon, restricted licenses decreased numerically and as a proportion of all licenses, from 25 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2002 (Table A-7).(3) Because the foster parenting careers of these homes may vary from those licensed for regular foster care, their representation within the larger population is of interest.

The two states also had somewhat different trends with respect to foster parent age. In Oklahoma, the greatest growth in foster parent resources was among younger foster parents, whereas those in the middle age range increased only slightly and older foster parent homes declined (Table A-4). In Oregon, the greatest growth was among homes in which all foster parents were between 30 and 55 years of age (Table A-8). This distribution may have implications for adoptions from foster care because just over 50 percent of adoptive mothers are under age 30 (Dalberth, Gibbs, and Berkman, 2004).

In both states, changes in foster parent racewere small (Tables A-5 and A-9).

Oregon data include data on employment status of foster parents at the time of licensure. Between 1983 and 2002, the proportion of homes in which all foster parents worked full-time rose from 22 to 39 percent (Table A-10). This trend parallels changes in the age distribution of Oregon's foster parents, which showed declines in the proportion of younger foster parents (who are more likely to be home raising young children of their own) and older foster parents (who are more likely to be partially or fully retired).

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