New child welfare data resource gives public officials and advocates critical information about the children and families they serve

February 26, 2019

Today, Child Trends released State-level data for understanding child welfare in the United States, a comprehensive resource, including easy-to-use interactive features, that provides state- and national-level data on child maltreatment, foster care, kinship caregiving, and adoption. This resource compiles critical data from a variety of sources on children, youth, and families who came in contact with the child welfare system in federal fiscal year (FY) 2017.

“These data are important because they help policymakers understand how many children and youth came in contact with the child welfare system, and why,” said Sarah Catherine Williams, a child welfare expert at Child Trends. “States can use this information to ensure their child welfare systems support the safety, stability, and well-being of all families in their state.”

State-level data for understanding child welfare in the United States highlight the prevalence of child maltreatment in the United States and provide information about the number of referrals to child welfare agencies, child abuse and neglect investigations, and demographics on maltreatment victims. The interactive also provides data on the number of children in foster care, their average length of stay, and the outcomes they experience. Data on children adopted from the foster care system and those living with relatives are included in this comprehensive resource. State-level data for understanding child welfare in the United States uses a variety of data sources, including the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS).

Analysis of data from this new resource finds that the rate of children in foster care rose in 39 states in FY 2017, with rates ranging from a low of 2.5 per 1,000 children in Virginia to a high of 17.8 per 1,000 children in West Virginia. Child Trends will release further analyses in a blog series during the upcoming months. These analyses will examine national and state-level trends in the rate of children entering care due to parental drug abuse, as well as trends in child and youth demographics (e.g., age, race, and ethnicity).