State child welfare fact sheets: New and improved!

BlogChild WelfareFeb 15 2017

Child Trends has released a series of state-level fact sheets detailing the most recent data on child maltreatment, foster care, relative caregiving, and adoption statistics. Every time we release these annual fact sheets, we strive to make them even more useful to key stakeholders. We believe this year’s set, representing data from FFY 2014, is our best yet. Here’s why.

First, we added a brand new set of factsheets on relative caregiving. Why the focus on relatives? Relatives are invaluable sources of support and connection for children in foster care. In FFY 2014, nearly one third of children in care were placed with relative foster parents. Federal and state child welfare efforts both prioritize placing children with relatives when possible. For example, the federal Fostering Connections Act requires that child welfare agencies notify all adult relatives of their options to become caregivers within 30 days of a child entering care, and gives states permission to waive certain licensing requirements for relative foster parents. While we always include data on relatives in the foster care and adoption factsheets, this year we felt it was important to take a deeper look at children who are cared for by relatives, and to bring this information together in one place.

We also revamped the factsheets by changing how we present comparisons with regard to racial and ethnic data. In previous years, we compared each state’s racial and ethnic demographic data to national data. This year, we compare these data to state-level census data in order to place them in the context of the unique demographic makeup of each state. See below for an example from the adoption factsheets, where we added comparisons of the racial and ethnic breakdown of children in the general population and those in foster care to the breakdown of children adopted and waiting to be adopted.

Race and ethnicity of children adopted and waiting to be adopted from foster care[i]

We also simplified legends and axes across all graphs to improve clarity and produce more visually appealing fact sheets. In addition, we replaced pie charts with bar graphs because our brains are better at comparing lengths than angles or areas. See another example of this year’s streamlined graphs below.

Age distribution of children adopted and waiting to be adopted from foster care[ii]

And we’re not done improving the fact sheets! This year we will interview key stakeholders to learn how they use the fact sheets and what additional information they would like included in the next round.

We welcome your input as well. Please email your suggestions to help make the next round of fact sheets even better.

[i] Does not include children over age 20 or children missing birthdate data; children waiting to be adopted from foster care are age 17 or younger.

[ii] Hispanic children are not included in counts for specific racial groups. Children whose race was reported as unknown are not included. Data for the general child population under age 18 is from the U. S. Census Bureau. This information is publicly available on the Kids Count Data Center (