The Best And Worst States For Foster Care


Washington, D.C. - For a child in foster care, the best states in which to enter foster care would be New Mexico, Utah and New Hampshire and the worst state would be Hawaii, the National Center for Policy Analysis said today.

The rankings were based on the proportion of children in foster care and the percentage of adoptions finalized for children legally free to be adopted in 1996, as determined in a new study released by the NCPA today at a press conference held at The National Press Club.

The study, reporting on two years of work by the Institute for Children, also compiled what is believed to be the first-ever comprehensive list of the number of foster children legally free for adoption nationwide. The study found:

  • Adoptions were finalized in fiscal 1996 for 22,491 foster children.
  • But another 53,642 foster children were legally free to be adopted as fiscal 1997 began.
  • Even the six states that finalized the most adoptions in 1996 each had an even greater number of foster children free to be adopted and waiting for a permanent family at the beginning of 1997.

In New Mexico, three of every 1,000 children were in foster care and adoptions were finalized in 1996 for 54 percent of foster children who were legally free to be adopted. Utah, also with three of every 1,000 children in foster care, finalized adoptions for 53 percent of its free-to-be-adopted foster children, and New Hampshire, where five of every 1,000 children were in foster care, finalized adoptions for 52 percent of those legally free to be adopted.
Hawaii, with eight of every 1,000 children in foster care, finalized adoptions for just under 10 percent of free-to-be-adopted children during 1996.

Idaho had the smallest proportion of its children in foster care of any state, two of every 1,000. On the other hand, 22 of every 1,000 in the District of Columbia were in foster care (this is a 1995 number - the District is the only jurisdiciton that could not provide a 1996 figure), as were 17 of every 1,000 in Illinois and 14 of every 1,000 in Colorado and Minnesota.

States other than New Mexico, Utah and New Hampshire that finalized adoptions for high percentages of foster children who were free to be adopted were: North Dakota 97 percent, Oregon 60 percent and Wyoming 50 percent.

The states with the lowest percentages other than Hawaii were: Pennsylvania 15 percent, Alabama 18 percent and West Virginia 19 percent.

"There can be a number of reasons for the wide difference in how states measure up to the criteria of the number of children in foster care and the number of adoptions finalized," said John C. Goodman, president of the NCPA.

"The way the federal government reimburses the states encourages them to keep children in foster care, and states differ in their response to this perverse incentive," Goodman continued.

"Having a low percentage of children in foster care could simply mean that a state isn't very aggressive about moving children out of abusive homes. Conversely, a high percentage could mean the state is too aggressive."