Analysis of Foster Care System Data

The U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families collects data each year from the states as to their foster care system. This, along with other resources, provide for the base of this analysis. There is usually a 2 year lapse in this data collection; thus this data is from FY 2005…the last fiscal year that data is fully available.

In FY2005 there were 3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect

Of the 3 million cases reported 872,000 were supposedly verified. I say supposedly because the verification process can differ from state to state as well as counties within each state. Because of how Child Protective Services acts some verifiable cases can actually result from false allegations…if CPS wants to find you guilty they will no matter the evidence. Some of these reports came in after a child was removed from their biological family and placed in out of home care.

I also wonder about the over 2 million reports that were NOT verified. Were they not verified because there was not enough evidence? Were they not verified because they were false allegations and were those who made such allegations held accountable for their actions? What price did the bio/foster/adoptive familes pay (not just financial) due to these allegations?  

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases there are some cases that may be from a second or third report regarding the same child

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases the data breaks down as follows:

65% neglect
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment

966 cases actually resulted in the death of the child

After supposedly verifying the cases of child neglect and/or abuse 311,128 youth were placed in the foster care system. Data is not provided as to how the remaining cases were resolved.

At the end of FY2004 there were already 517,463 youth in foster care

In FY2005:

The U.S. spent $22 billion dollars ($5 billion from the Federal government and the balance from state/county governments) to provide services for children and youth in foster care. This averages out to $40,000 per child.

311,128 youth entered foster care
828,591 youth spent some portion of FY2005 in foster care
287,998 youth exited foster care via reunification, adoption, runaway, aged out, etc
534 youth died while in out of home care attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and homicide).
114,000 TPR (termination of parental rights) complete awaiting adoption of which 66,000 had TPR completed in FY 2005
24,407 youth aged out
51,691 adopted by foster parents or others
513,131 remained in care at end of FY2005

Placement settings of youth in foster care during FY2005 :

Pre-Adoptive Home                                              4%    18,691
Foster Family Home (Relative)                        24%   124,153
Foster Family Home (Non-Relative)               46%   236,775
Group Home                                                          8%     43,440
Institution                                                            10%     51,210
Supervised Independent Living                          1%      5,918
Runaway                                                                 2%    10,930
Trial Home Visit                                                    4%    21,883

Case goals of the youth in foster care during FY2005:

 Reunify with Parent(s)                                    51%    262,706
Live with Other Relative(s)                               4%      21,722
Adoption                                                             20%    100,949
Long Term Foster Care                                      7%      37,628
Age Out                                                                 6%      31,938
Guardianship                                                        3%      15,653
Case Plan Goal Not Yet Established                  8%     42,403

Outcomes for the children exiting foster care during FY 2005

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s)
                                                                 54%   155,608
Living with Other Relative(s)              11%     31,362
Adoption                                                 18%     51,691
Age Out                                                    9%     24,407
Guardianship                                          4%     12,881
Transfer to Another Agency                2%       6,440
Runaway                                                 2%       4,445
Death of Child                                         0%         534

(NOTE: totals do not equal per the US DHHS due to how states submit their data)

32 states had an increase of youth entering care in FY 2005; Texas had the largest with a 3,320 increase over FY 2004 and Florida showed the second largest increase of 2,315.

29 states had an increase of youth in care at end of FY 2005; Texas had the largest increase of almost 20% (FYI: Texas data is also available for FY2006 which shows yet another almost 20% increase over FY2005.)

Of the youth entering foster care in FY2005 the percentage based on age is as follows:

0-5 years          32%
6-10 years        20%
11-14 years       20%
15-up                 29%

The lengths of stay in foster care for youth in care at the end of FY23005 are:

Days to 11 months         42%
12-23 months                 21%
24-35 months                12%
3-5 years & up               25%        

The 10 states with the most youth of foster care at the end of FY2005 are:

1. California              81,174
2. New York            30,420
3. Florida                 29,312
4. Texas                   28,883
5. Pennsylvania      21,691
6. Michigan              29,498
7. Illinois                   19,431
8. Ohio                      17,442
9. Georgia                13,965
10. Massachusetts  12,197

Race/Ethnicity of youth in care:

White, Non-spanic                                                       40%
Black, Non-Hispanic                                                    34% 
Hispanic                                                                         18% 
American Indian/Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic        2% 
Asian/Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic                         1% 
Unknown                                                                         2% 
Two or More Races, Non-Hispanic                              2% 

Gender Percentage:

Male         52%
Female     48%

Foster Homes Available:

In 2005, there were 153,000 licensed non relative foster homes nationwide.

None of the above data includes the more than 2 million U.S. children living with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them but are not part of the foster care system. When relatives provide care it is known as kinship care.

There are currently 114,000 youth who are eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 after 51,691 youth were adopted. The data does NOT include youth age 16 and over who are eligible for adoption but whose case plan is for them to age out of the system

Age percentages of those waiting for adoption at end of FY2005 are:

0-5 years          37%
6-10 years        25%
11-14 years       23%
15years-up       14%

Lengths of stay for those youth awaiting adoption at end of FY2005 are:

Days-11 months            13%
12-23 months                25%
24-35 months                23%
36-5 years or more       42%

Age percentages for those youth that were adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

0-5 years            53%
6-10 years           28%
11-14 years          14%
15 year-up             5%

The above data clearly shows the older the youth is and the longer the youth remains in care the less opportunity they will have to be adopted and instead will age of out the system.

Top 10 states with the great number of youth adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

1. California              7,549
2. New York             3,422
3. Texas                    3,181
4. Florida                  3,020
5. Michigan               2,884
6. Pennsylvania        2,065
7. Ohio                       2,044
8. New Jersey          1,380
9. Missouri                1,309
10. Washington        1,306

The 10 states with the greatest number of youth in foster care but eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 are:

1. Texas                   10,768
2. New York              9,219
3. Florida                   7,374
4. Michigan                7,061
5. New Jersey*          4,425
6. Ohio                        4,348
7. California                4,121
8. Oklahoma*             3,993
9. Pennsylvania          3,679
10. Oregon*                3,441

*Though these states are not amongst the highest with youth in care they are among not those with the highest number of youth awaiting adoption

In FY2005 24, 407 (this is up 4,400 from FY2004) youth aged out of the foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth often are left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations. Based on previous studies done over the past number of years these youth will face the following:  

Will earn a high school diploma                                                      54% 
Will obtain BA or higher                                                                    2%
Will become a parent 12-18 months after discharge                   84% 
Will experience unemployment                                                      51%
Will have no health insurance                                                         30% 
Will become homeless                                                                      25%
Will receiving public assistance                                                       30%
Will experience the justice system                                                 27%

There is vital data missing from what the states report to the federal government (or the state does not provide this data) which would prove vital in analyzing the foster care system and the potential damage caused to youth in care. They are:

1. The number of placements the youth experienced while in care. This is vital as it has been shown the more the placements the higher the possibility of damage to the youth.

* * Children have on average three different foster care placements. The longer a child or youth remains in foster care the more moves. Frequent moves in and out of the homes of strangers as well as new schools can be profoundly unsettling for children, and it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20 or 30 different homes or 5 to 7 new schools. Many have been separated not only from their parents, but from their siblings.

*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support

2. The percentage of lengths of stay and age percentage for each state. This would show how each state is doing in complying (or not) with the AFSA of 1997 in regards to the 15 months out of 22 months rule.

3. How many TPRs were completed were done in each state. This could help in figuring out why a state as California have over 81,000 youth in care at the end of FY2005, only 7,549 adoptions happened during that year but only 4,100 were still eligible for adoption at the end of  FY2005.

4. How many of the youth in FY2005, or before,  had been in care before but had been reunified with their family only to return. How many have been reunified and returned more than once and how many times?

5.  How were the other 560,852 supposedly verified cases (of the 872,000 total supposedly verified cases) of child neglect and/or abuse in FY2005 resolved? (IE: parenting classes, in home services, rehab, therapy, etc.) Were some of these reported a second time and come into foster care?

6. What are the exact figures from each state for youth aging out and how many of the 24, 407 youth nationwide who aged out of the system in FY2005 were offered services to assist them to become productive members of society so as not to end up as one of the statistical failures indicated above?

My top question is: How much longer will our society allow our youth to languish within the quagmire of our foster care system???  

The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children. ~Margaret Mead