Number of Children in Foster Care at Decade-Low Level

At a time when good news seems to be scarce, the number of U.S. children in foster care is down sharply, according to new data released by the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. The number of foster children fell by over 20 percent during the last decade, from 540,000 in care ten years ago to 423,773 in care on September 30, 2009.

Child welfare experts welcomed the news and told the Associated Press they attributed the improvement to federal and state policies that emphasize providing support for troubled families, thus sometimes preventing the need for foster care altogether. For too long state child welfare systems were overwhelmed and under resourced, unable to turn around large bureaucratic systems to better serve children who had been abused and neglected. The new data confirm that entries into foster care have decreased. That the number of adoptions has increased and the number of children awaiting adoption has decreased also shows state child welfare systems are responding more quickly to children in care, decreasing the time children spend in foster care.

You can track and chart child welfare data and much more on the new CSG Website, States Perform, which provides you access to interactive, customizable and up-to-date comparative performance measurement data for states in six key policy areas. Visit the site and learn more at

Last year CSG released  a national report comparing states performance on child welfare indicators.