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.