Last week Child Trends unveiled new state data on child maltreatment and child welfare. They also issued an analysis that indicates that one in three children entered for care due to parental substance abuse in 2017. The rate of 131 children per 100,000 represents a 5 percent increase over the previous year. That rate also represents a 53 percent increase over 2007.

Nationally foster care numbers have risen from a low of 400,000 in 2012 to 442,000 in 2017 with several the states facing a substance abuse (mostly opioids) impact. According to the analysis, in 2017, six states and territories: Puerto Rico, Wyoming, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Ohio saw the largest rate increases while New Hampshire, Louisiana, Arizona, and the District of Columbia had the largest decreases. Significant for New Hampshire which has been dealing with an opiods problem for many years and before many other states.

The analysis also highlights the difficulty of tracking the issue. The caseworkers who are responsible for inputting accurate data but that may not be available at the time of data entry. A child entering foster care could come from a family with multiple challenges. The worker
may not know the detailed substance use problems whether it is heroin and/or the ongoing and consistent child welfare substance use problem, alcohol. The Child Trends analysis also points out that some children in an informal kinship placement are likely not tracked regarding parental issues since the informal relative care circumstances are not tracked under the official AFCARS system.

Child Trends has also unveiled a new state by state database on child welfare issues that provides state and national data on child maltreatment, foster care, kinship caregiving, and adoption. The database is based on from a variety of sources on children, youth, and families who encountered the child welfare system in federal fiscal year (FY) 2017.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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