The State of the Children: An Examination of Government-Run Foster Care

Studies | Social

No. 210
Friday, August 01, 1997
by Conna Craig and Derek Herbert


Notes

  1. "Substitute care" is out-of-home placement under the supervision of a public child welfare agency. In this report, the term "foster care" is used as an umbrella term for out-of-home, government-run substitute care, including care in foster families (including kinship care foster families), group homes and other institutions. The term does not refer to children who are receiving family preservation services in their biological family home. The American Public Welfare Association reported that at the end of fiscal year 1990, 74 percent of children in substitute care were in foster homes, 3 percent were in non-finalized adoptive homes (that is, they were already with their adoptive families but the formal process was not yet complete), 16 percent were in group homes or emergency care, less than 1 percent were living independently, and 6 percent were in "other" living arrangements. Toshio Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care (Washington, DC: American Public Welfare Association, 1993), pp. 95-96. This finding based on 28 states reporting, accounting for 276,355 children, about 68 percent of the total substitute care population at the end of fiscal year 1990.
  2. In-care-today figure from original research on all 50 states conducted by the Institute for Children, Cambridge, MA. All-or-part-of-this-year figure based on: (1) In 1994, 698,000 children spent at least part of the year in state-run substitute care. American Public Welfare Association, figures revised July 1996. Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, 1996 Green Book (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), p. 743; and (2) In an APWA survey of 53 jurisdictions, 62.3 percent of respondents indicated that "substitute care population will increase." Toshio Tatara, "U.S. Child Substitute Care Flow Data for FY 92 and Current Trends in the State Child Substitute Care Populations," VCIS Research Notes No. 9, American Public Welfare Association, Washington, DC, August 1993, p. 10. Note on APWA figures: several states indicated that they included status offenders and juvenile delinquents in the substitute care data submitted to the APWA. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, p. 17.
  3. The American Almanac 1996-1997 Statistical (Austin, TX: Hoover's, 1996), p. 257; and "Average Baseball Ticket Up to $11.98," Associated Press dispatch, March 28, 1997.
  4. 1996 Green Book, p. 695; Robyn Lipner and Belinda Goertz, "Child Welfare Priorities and Expenditures," W-Memo, vol. 2, no. 8, American Public Welfare Association, p. 3.
  5. Children's Rights Project, "Children's Rights Fact Sheet," American Civil Liberties Union, January 1995, p. 1.
  6. 1996 Green Book, p. 707.
  7. U.S. General Accounting Office, Foster Care: Services to Prevent Out-of-Home Placements Are Limited by Funding Barriers, GAO/HRD-93-76, June 1993, p. 62.
  8. Daryl Bell-Greenstreet, "Foster Care Review Board Fails in its Duty Toward Children," The Arizona Republic, May 2, 1995, p. B4.
  9. Children's Rights Project, A Force for Change (New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 1993), p. 2.
  10. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, p. 106, with 15 states reporting and accounting for 208,125 children or about 51 percent of total substitute care population at the end of fiscal 1990.
  11. Federal Register (1987). Cited in "Effectiveness of Family Reunification Services: An Innovative Evaluative Model," Social Work, vol. 37, no. 4, July 1992.
  12. National figure based on (1) Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, pp. 71-72; this finding based on 24 states reporting, accounting for 106,713 children, about 53 percent of the total estimated number of children exiting substitute care during fiscal year 1990; and (2) Tatara, "U.S. Child Substitute Care Flow Data for FY 92 and Current Trends in the State Child Substitute Care Populations," p. 10 (APWA survey data of 53 jurisdictions, with 62.3 percent of respondents indicating that "substitute care population will increase"). New York figure based on interview with Pat O'Brien, You Gotta Believe! New York, February 12, 1996.
  13. Deborah Daro and Ching-Tung Wang, "Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities: NCPCA's 1996 Annual Fifty State Survey," National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. Available on the Internet at http://www.childabuse.org/5096sum.html. Data based on information from 39 states.
  14. Ibid. Data based on information from 37 states.
  15. Ibid.; "Child Abuse Rates Remain High," National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. Available on the Internet at http://www.child abuse.org/rsrchl.html; and David Wiese and Deborah Daro, "Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities: The Results of the 1994 Annual Fifty State Survey," National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, April 1995, p. 5.
  16. "Consider Foster Parenting," Massachusetts Department of Social Services.
  17. 1996 Green Book, p. 734. The period during which the reported increase took place was from 1986 to 1988.
  18. Cohort Two: A Study of Families and Children Entering Foster Care 1991-93.
  19. 1996 Green Book, p. 735.
  20. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, pp. 56-57. This finding based on 19 states reporting, accounting for 112,726 children, about 46 percent of the total estimated number of children entering substitute during fiscal year 1990.
  21. Ibid., p. 23.
  22. American Public Welfare Association, figures revised July 1996. Cited in 1996 Green Book, p. 743.
  23. For the District of Columbia only, a 1995 figure of 2,558 was used. The District of Columbia did not provide 1996 data.
  24. The American Public Welfare Association's figures show that fiscal 1994 began with 444,000 children in care; during the year 254,000 entered the system and 230,000 exited, making a total of 698,000 children served. American Public Welfare Association, figures revised July 1996. Cited in 1996 Green Book, p. 743. The 650,000 figure for 1997 is a conservative estimate, considering that when the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico reported to the APWA on trends in substitute care growth, 33 of the jurisdictions stated that their substitute care populations would grow and another 11 predicted their substitute care populations would remain the same. Of the nine states that reported that their substitute care population would decrease, none stated that it would decrease by more than 10 percent. See Tatara, "U.S. Child Substitute Care Flow Data for FY 92 and Current Trends in the State Child Substitute Care Populations," p. 10 (APWA survey data of 53 jurisdictions, with 62.3 percent of respondents indicating that "substitute care population will increase").
  25. American Public Welfare Association, figures revised July 1996. Cited in 1996 Green Book, p. 743.
  26. Toshio Tatara, "A Comparison of Child Substitute Care Exit Rates Among Three Different Racial/Ethnic Groups in 12 States, FY 84 to FY 90," VCIS Research Notes No. 10, American Public Welfare Association, June 1994, p. 1.
  27. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, pp. 51-52. This finding based on 23 states reporting, accounting for 121,879 children, about 50 percent of the total estimated number of children entering substitute care during fiscal year 1990.
  28. Tatara, "A Comparison of Child Substitute Care Exit Rates Among Three Different Racial/Ethnic Groups in 12 States, FY 84 to FY 90," p. 6.
  29. Robert M. Goerge et al., Foster Care Dynamics 1983-1992: A Report From the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive, The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 1994, p. 10, pp. 40-41.
  30. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, p. 90.
  31. Robert M. Goerge et al., Foster Care Dynamics 1983-1992: A Report From the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive, pp. 40-41.
  32. Coalition for the Homeless, "Blueprint for Solving New York's Homeless Crisis," New York City, a report to Mayor David Dinkins, p. 101, cited in Pat O'Brien, "Youth Homelessness and the Lack of Relational Planning for Older Foster Children," You Gotta Believe! not dated.
  33. A National Evaluation of Title IV-E Foster Care Independent Living Program for Youth: Phase II Final Report, vols. I and II (Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc. 1991), cited in U.S. General Accounting Office, Child Welfare: Complex Needs Strain Capacity to Provide Services, GAO/HEHS-95-208, September 1995, pp. 14-15.
  34. In a small percentage of cases, parents voluntarily relinquish their rights.
  35. Office of Inspector General, Barriers to Freeing Children for Adoption, Department of Health and Human Services, February 1991, pp. 7-8.
  36. Ibid., p. 10.
  37. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, pp. 148-149, accounting for 9,173 children or 46 percent of the total estimated number of children awaiting adoptive placement at the end of fiscal 1990.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Pre-adoptive homes are typically those of foster families who have been identified as potential adoptive parents for children currently in their care.
  40. Public Law 96-272, The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. 1996 Green Book, p. 695.
  41. For other causes of this bias, see Conna Craig, "What I Need Is A Mom: The Welfare State Denies Homes to Thousands of Foster Children," Policy Review, Summer 1995.
  42. Guardianship, shown in the California figure, is legal custody.
  43. The "1996 Post-Election Survey" was administered by The Polling Company in Washington, DC. A comprehensive survey including 74 questions was administered by telephone to 1,200 respondents November 5-7, 1996. The sample consisted of 800 actual voters, 259 registered nonvoters and 141 nonregistered adults. The margin of error for the entire sample is +2.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error for the voting subsample is +3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Participants in the survey were asked the following question devised by the Institute for Children: "Assume for a moment that you have decided to adopt a child. In so doing, would you consider a child who is, or has been, in foster care? Would you strongly consider, somewhat consider, consider only a little bit or not at all consider adopting a child who had spent time in foster care?" The Polling Company factored as positive responses only "strongly consider" and "somewhat consider" into its conclusions; the answer "consider only a little bit" was coded as a negative response.
  44. Michael Shapiro, A Study of Adoption Practice (vol. III): Adoption of Children with Special Needs, cited in Katherine A. Nelson, On The Frontier of Adoption: A Study of Special-Needs Adoptive Families, (New York: Child Welfare League of America, 1985), pp. 2-3.
  45. Patrick Curtis et al., Child Abuse and Neglect: A Look at the States (Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1995), pp. 86-87.
  46. Ibid.
  47. 1996 Green Book, p. 713.
  48. Patrick Curtis et al., Child Abuse and Neglect: A Look at the States, pp. 90-91.
  49. Tatara, Characteristics of Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care, pp. 143-145. Data are from 18 states, accounting for 9,134 children, or 46 percent of the total estimated number of children awaiting adoptive placement at the end of fiscal 1990.
  50. The Institute for Children has presented the recommendations listed here, beginning in 1993, in key states whose governors are making foster care reform a top priority, as well as to members of Congress.

Read Article as PDF