Growth of foster care

The US department of Health and Human Service, Administration for Children and Families maintains statistics about foster care. While browsing through their site, I came across the number of children in foster care on the last day of year (September 30). Although the data is from FY2002 to FY2006 it's still interesting to see what states are doing well in reducing the number of children in foster care and what states are not.

I decided to take the average of the annual growth for these years and created the following map.

The various shades of blue indicate the extent to which states are successful reducing the number of children in foster care, while shades of red indicate increasing growth percentages.

Some states have a nearly linear trend eg. Maine and District of Columbia show constant reduction of children in foster care and states like Nevada and Texas show a constant growth of its foster care population, while other states show pretty erratic behaviour. Iowa eg. had a 4.33% reduction between in 2003, but a 33.06% increase between in 2006. Another example of erratic behaviour is Nebraska, which in 2003 had a reduction of 10.06%, but a increase of 22.22% the year after, while the subsequent years showed moderate reductions.

The most erratic state is West Virginia which had an increase in foster care placements of 26.37 in 2003, a reduction of 1.94 in 2004, an increase of 15.96 in 2005 followed by a reduction of 13.29 in 2006

Since the above map only shows the averages over a five year period these fluctuations are flattened out. So some states that seem to be doing reasonably well, may in fact do very poorly one year and rather good the other. The extent to which a states reduction/growth figures are erratic is presented in the following map. The redder the colour the more the figures fluctuate.

The next map shows the trend for each of the state. In shades of blue those states are shown that trend towards reduction of children in foster care and in shades of re are those states that trend towards growth of the foster care population. Note that some of the states that have the biggest growth, eg. Arizona, has the best trending of all the states. So while the foster care population is still growing, that growth seems to be reducing. The opposite can be seen in Minnesota, where the foster care population saw a strong reduction in 2003, but where that reduction has become less significant over time

One final note: the trending has less significance for those states where the foster population fluctuates much. West Virginia shows a trend to reduction, but due to the strong fluctuation that trend has little validity.

One could argue that the reduction of children in foster care is related to the number of children adopted from foster care, but this assumption seems not to be valid. In fact, many of the states that show the largest reduction of children in foster care show a decline in adoption from foster care, while some of the states that have the fastest growing foster care population also see the strongest growth in adoption from foster care.

The following map shows in shades of blue the growth of adoption from foster care and shows in shades of red the decline of adoption from foster care.

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Consistency in care

I'm not sure how these sort of stats help people see how CPS benefits a child in terms of safety.  Much like the point I tried to make in the case of Scotland's increase in child abuse numbers, these statistics do not show what demographic is being helped, when help is given, HOW they are being helped, and who benefits most from the services provided by and through child protection/placement services.  [See:  http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/22769#comment-6700 ] .

[For instance, between the three --  first-families, parental-replacements, or adoption agencies, -- who thinks Child Protection Services are getting better as the years pass by, and does quality of care truly fluctuate each year because of available funding?]

As far as I'm concerned, the only constant I keep seeing is insufficient information being reported to the public, and I can't see how missing facts and figures, misleading stats and findings benefit families and children looking for a world of "good".  Foster care needs standards of care, and I don't think the stats given in their reports reflect how those standards are improving.

If it were up to me, I'd like to see a map that shows which areas show the most "improved performance" by their state CPS agencies.  I would think those areas would have a radical decrease in child abuse cases, period.  [Oh Niels, if only we could get paid for our opinions!]

the value of the maps

The figures show little else than changes in foster care population in the different states over a five year period. In that sense they are pretty useless other than that they show which states make an effort to reduce the number of children foster care. 'That by itself is indeed in no way a measure for the quality of services provided and of the safety of the children involved.

I too wished we were paid for our opinions and work. Given proper figures I would love to make sensible chart and maps to inform people about the performance of the various child placement organizations.

Which states do what

They show which states make an effort to reduce the number of children foster care

These states that reduce the number of children in foster care..... how do these states rate in terms of the number of legal adoptions made each year?  Is there a correlation between higher adoption rates and lower numbers of child abuse cases being reported to authorities?  I ask, because I don't think a state's claim that there is a reduction of kids in foster care means there is less child abuse taking place in homes.  I know many abused adoptees and foster kids who NEVER had their abuse reported.  Instead, they became statistics of another kind.... (victims of suicide, drug use, or they became counted among those arrested and put in jail or prison).

some relatedness and a lot of unrelatedness

To clarify you question I made an extra map. This shows the adoption rates for each of the states. The darker red, the larger the percentage of children from foster care being adopted. As you can see the rate is pretty homogeneous throughout the country, with notable exceptions for the south and a handful of rather unrelated states such as Wyoming, Maryland, Massachusetts and Nebraska that have relatively low adoption rates. While Utah, Iowa, Hawaii and Michigan having little in common with one another either, share the common phenomenon that they have high adoption rates,

If we look at the abuse rates of which I haven't made a map yet, but which has a relatively known pattern, mostly related to poverty, we can see that there is indeed a correlation between the reduction of children from foster care and child abuse, but not to the adoption rate.

The fact there is a correlation, doesn't mean there is a causal relation anywhere and I don't think there is one.

The states that show the largest reduction of children in foster care are generally speaking the more affluent states with the most urban population. It's also notable that these are the more liberal states, hence the ones with better developed public services, factors that also have positive effects of reaching lower abuse levels.

Economic conditions of each

Economic conditions of each state, along with the surrounding states being identified, may be a theory that seemingly would correlate with population and such trends.

Economics

I strongly believe economics have everything to do with the type and quality of child services given any given community.  (Perhaps this explains why AP's tend to believe they will get far better "available" services through well-funded private adoption agencies than those who stay within state/foster-care programs.  After all, don't most people like to believe they will get what they pay for?)

The problem is, when you look at it from a much bigger perspective, economics and "needs" tend to work much differently.  For instance, China and Russia are not at all "poor countries", yet they can't afford to care for their "orphaned" children?  America, too,  is not a poor country, so why is child welfare run so poorly if we can afford to spend billions on weapons we hope no one will ever use?  If you ask me, more and more money is going into private pockets than the services that could truly help people/families, and I see this as a very huge problem.  [See:  "Didn't look like kid-rob fiends"]

So one has to wonder how each state leader is spending the money paid by the people to help serve parents and children, and if "child safety" and reducing child abuse is indeed a priority within our own country.

 

coming into this late

but, what I have seen locally is if a child is placed in foster care with a private agency the cost of care for the child goes up, services actually go down (sure more people may see the child and bill Medicaid, but the child is not better served) just another group of SWs in the kids life, and someone being paid more money to keep the kid...

I have even seen kids moved from long term foster placements where they were doing well, back to basic rate homes... so private, not better for the kid

now foster parent, adoptive parent homestudy issue... you basically we have a kid in your home in 3 months if you have a clearn record and want to foster... but the road to adoption only is much longer and never seems to end the public adoption way, and actually most of the time in most states you cannot get a homestudy just to adopt only...

my son was part of a rush to get good numbers in Missouri... it did not serve him well... He'd of been just as well off if not better (probably would not have been sexually abused as bad as he was in foster care if just kept with his birth mom) I got him after his foster care years...

sad thing also, most of these kids are not orphaned and neither are apparently a lot of the kids living is orphanges around the world or making it to the USA through adoption..

Private solutions for public problems

I used to think the public/private aspect of adoption was limited to the agencies serving the PAP, not the care given to children and parents, themselves.  Then I learned about Gladney and Bethany and how not all maternity homes treat pregnant women (who need special assistance) the same.  Then I learned how homes for children (residential programs) differ for children around the world.  Then I learned how prisons are going from state-funded institutions to privately owned businesses.... and I learned that's not always to the benefit of the inmates, either.

There used to be a time when people didn't mind going to small private companies with higher prices because the consumer knew higher prices meant better quality, care and services.  When it comes to matters related to health-care, I do not think this is true. 

Back when I was working in a private hospital, I saw many wealthy people hire private duty nurses for their loved-one "stuck on a floor with too many patients and too few nurses".  It was assumed more money would guarantee better patient-care.  I saw first-hand how lazy greedy people operate, and how easily people with money were being fooled by those who promised to provide "special attention".  This really sickened me because the elderly DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) patients getting crap care from a sleeping private duty nurse could not speak on their own behalf, and complain to the nursing agency or tell their family members their money was being wasted on lazy, careless workers.  These behind-closed-door stories went to the grave.  I see how this "standard of operation" applies to foster-care/adoption, too.

Many of us "Average Americans" are on a limited budget (income), with limited means to pay for certain services, which means the Average American is not nearly as wealthy as many foreigners want to believe.  [For example, not every American AP adopting from a poor country is a mega-rich celebrity.]  So what happens when a person with children suddenly loses a well-paying job, and quickly loses all his/her savings?  In an article, "As economy worsens, child abuse cases on the rise", Matt Hyde, CASA Program Director at Family Advocates, states:

as the economy worsens they are already seeing more severe cases of child abuse.

"We have seen some pretty significant physical and sexual abuse cases that have come up in the last several months," said Hyde.

He says it’s a tough time for many people in this economy, but he says in some families it’s especially hard for children.

Nationwide, numerous communities are reporting a rise in child abuse rates as the economy sours, and Hyde says they are starting to see that trend here locally as families try to make ends meet.

"It takes people to a different state of desperation when they don't know how they are going to meet their basic needs," said Hyde.

While families are struggling, so are many organizations.

As the economy worsens, people lose jobs, and sadly, many parents will take their frustration and anger out on their children.  What might happen next?  These abused children will be put in the foster-care system (for the child's protection) and find themselves in a system that is very scary because it's so over-crowded and understaffed.  Who is expected to change and save the fate of these families and children?  Private businesses that often go under the "non-profit" tag will often advertise themselves as family-services and advocates for children.  [I'd like to remind readers just because a company says it's not-for-profit does not mean the workers are not getting payed, as explained in the thread that follows the piece titled, "Not for Profit? ".]

Knowing how corrupt people can be, and knowing how attractive the price tag to a private adoption (and all it's "special services" ) can be, I shudder to think how many are getting into the business of family-care because they want to help parents and children or because they want to make sure they , as an employed person, do not suffer the same fate as those who lost everything because of a lost job, a lost income, and a loss in savings.

Meanwhile we have clowns like Larry Flynt and Joe Francis making the following request from the Federal Government:

“The government’s handing out money to the auto industry,” Francis, producer of the “Girls Gone Wild” video series, said on the phone from his Santa Monica office. “Why shouldn’t it hand some to an industry the nation could not live without?”  [From:  "Porn industry seeks $5 billion federal bailout", LA Daily News, Jan 8, 2009, http://www.ajc.com/business/content/business/stories/2009/01/08/flynt_porn_bailout.html

WHY does this very lucrative American Industry seek federal assistance?  According to CNN Political Ticker pages,

 the industry leaders said the issue is a nation in need. "People are too depressed to be sexually active," Flynt said in the statement. "This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex."

"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind. It's time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly."

Imagine how many jobless sexually-charged people would like to learn they have a new mouth to feed!  Think congress and those who support the adoption industry would find that quite pleasing?  [Move-over older foster kids, we have new babies from maternity homes and hospitals to sell!]

Clearly the priorities in this country have gotten very mixed-up and twisted, and I'm so terribly afraid most people don't care how many people are getting hurt, because of it.

Pound Pup Legacy