On October 10, 2019, The Chronicle of Social Change, released its third annual analysis of the nation’s foster care housing crisis. Through the collection and analysis of state data and federal reporting, this year’s findings aim to address two critical questions:

1. How many children and youth are in foster care today?
2. Where and with whom are they living?

Key highlights from the project, entitled Who Cares: A National Count of Foster Homes and Families, include:

• Unpaid Foster Care: The majority of states reported rely more heavily on relatives and unrelated kin, however a growing number of these families are being asked to carry out this role without any financial support from child welfare agencies.
• Congregate Care Cliff: Despite the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, which limits federal funds for group homes and other institutional settings for foster youth, many states have increased their reliance on these placements in recent years.
• Less Kids in Foster Care: Nationally, there has been a decline in number of youths in foster care from the previous year.
• More Homes: Nationally, the number of licensed foster care homes increased over the previous year.

Of note, the authors acknowledge discrepancies in their data collection and analysis. The researchers surveyed each state individually and made identical requests to each state and worked with several to ensure clarity on their questions. Some states however, were unable to, or unresponsive, to the researchers. As a result, inconsistencies in data interpretation are possible considering that states may not have participated or because states may have defined certain data elements differently. Additionally, federally collected Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) point-in-time data – which is available for all states – differs from some states point-in-time data due to lags in dates at which states report. Also, some states’ self-reported total number of youth in care for 2018 may include youth in extended foster care whereas AFCARS does not include this group in the total number of youth in care.