The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released a new report, Foster Care Entry Rates Grew Faster for Infants than for Children of Other Ages, 2011-2018, that found that infants accounted for more than 70 percent of the total increase in foster care entries in recent years at the national, state, and county-level.


Between 2006 and 2011, the number of infants entering foster care decreased by 17,000 from around 48,000 to 40,000 and then rose by 24 percent, reaching approximately 50,000 in 2018. The increase in foster care entries among infants was nearly 13 times as much as the 1.8 percent increase in placements for other age groups. Forty-four states had increases in infants entering foster care, ranging from 2 percent to 124 percent; in 13 states, infant foster care entries rose more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2018. Over half of all counties (1,655) saw infant foster care entries increase over this period, whereas entries decreased in less than a quarter (743 counties). Counties with growth rates of more than 50 percent were widely dispersed across the country.


The 13 states where infant foster care entries rose more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2018 included Kentucky, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Eight states experienced decreases, including Delaware, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and South Dakota. In addition, a small number of counties disproportionately accounted for the national growth in foster care between 2011 and 2018.


The increasing number of infants who were removed between 2011 and 2018 from their parent’s or caregiving care could be caused due to substance use. Due to parental substance use, such as opioid use during pregnancy, many infants are reported to child protective services. The increases show geographical differences.


The numbers also raise questions on how these children and families were affected by the pandemic and whether enough attention was paid to this growing part of the foster care population.  What will be the future effect especially if this means future re-entries into care?