The recently released AFCARS, Report Number 21, indicates that foster care numbers increased in FY 2013. The report lists 402,378 children in foster care at the end of federal fiscal year 2013 (September 30, 2013) compared to 396,892 for the same point in 2012. The report may be adjusted in the next few months but the increase of 5,486 would be the first increase since the 2004 to 2005 period when placements increased by 3,865 to 511,420. Over the past ten years the single biggest change between years was 2008 to 2009 when foster care placements decreased by an astounding 43,377 in one year. FY 2009 also coincided with the highest point of the recession (October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009).

The report shows an increase in the number of children that entered foster care in 2013 rising to 254,904 from 251,539 in 2012 and a decrease in the number of children that exited care going down to 238,280 last year from 240,936 compared to the year before. The number of children in foster care waiting to be adopted (either parental rights have been terminated or they have a plan of adoption) increased by 103 and was set at 101,840 children. The number of children adopted from foster care was 50,608 which is down from 2012 when 52,042 children were adopted from foster care. In terms of case plans for children currently in foster care, 53 percent had a plan of reunification with their family, 3 percent had a plan to live with another relative, 24 percent had a plan of adoption, 4 percent a guardianship placement while 5 percent had a case plan of long term foster care and 5 percent emancipation. These last two categories are actually a decrease from five years ago when 8 percent had a case plan goal of long term foster care and 6 percent had a plan goal of emancipation.

The AFCARS report indicates that in regard to a foster child’s most recent placement setting, 47 percent of children are in foster family homes. An additional 28 percent are in relative foster care, five percent are in trial home visits and four percent are in pre-adoptive homes. It is the remaining 15 or 16 percent of the placements that have garnered the most debate in Washington in recent years. Eight percent (32,602) of children and youth are in an institution while six percent are in group homes (23,314), one percent (4,486) are in independent living placements and another one percent (4,450) are on runaway status. Compared to a half decade ago (2009) the group home percentage has remained the same at six percent but numbers have decreased by approximately 2,000 to 23,314 while both numbers and the percentage of children in an institution has decreased from 10 percent to 8 percent and decreased by approximately 8,000 fewer children in institutional settings for a total of 32,602. The other decrease is in runaway status with 2009 data indicating that 2 percent were runaways totaling over 8,000 children down to one percent and 4,450 children in the latest year.