Indicator List for Child Welfare

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Child Trends conducts research, analyzes data, and evaluates programs in virtually every area in the child welfare field. Our areas of expertise include prevention of maltreatment, child protection, court oversight, foster care, kinship care, adoption, and youth leaving care. We work closely with practitioners and policymakers who rely on our research and advice to make positive change in child welfare systems.

Child Trends recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids initiative, a program developed to promote adoption of children from foster care. In addition, our child welfare team is evaluating family finding programs across the country. We also conduct biennial state surveys examining the funding streams that support child welfare services.

Indicator List for Child Welfare

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Adopted Children

Overall, adopted children in the U.S. fare about as well as children in the general population.  However, many adopted children bring to their new families a history of adverse early experiences that may make them more vulnerable to developmental risks.

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Child Maltreatment

The rate of substantiated child maltreatment, as of 2012, has shown modest declines in the past five years, and is now at a level lower than at any time since 1990. The rates of physical and sexual abuse have declined the most, and rates of neglect have declined the least.

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Child Support Receipt

Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1994 to 41 percent in 2009.  

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Foster Care

In 2012, 400,000 children were in foster care, a 29 percent decline from the 1999 peak of 567,000, and a number lower than that seen in any of the past 25 years.

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Homeless Children and Youth

While estimating the homeless population is difficult, about 1.1 million students in the U.S. were homeless at the start of the the 2010-2011 school year.  Children not enrolled in school,  although their numbers are less easily measured, push the total number of homeless children and youth significantly higher.