US Foster Care & Adoption - 2008 to 2017

2019 Week 20 Datasource

Posted by David Velleca on May 14, 2019

Historic Background

May is National Foster Care Month, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to dig into some data on Foster Care and Adoption. Foster care in the United States got its start in 1853. An overwhelming number of children in New York City, estimated at 30,000, were homeless or neglected, and called the streets of the city their homes.

Recognizing this issue and being called to do something to alleviate this problem, Charles Loring Brace and other local businessmen established the Children's Aid Society. This was a program that would eventually be known as the Orphan Train Movement. Brace sent these children to homesthroughout the United States via train with an aim to prevent them from experiencing 'a lifetime of suffering.' By the time of his death in 1890, Brace's program had helped place more than 120,000 children.

Though not a perfect solution, with reports of separated siblings or children being put to work as free labor, the work of the Children's Aid Society was ground breaking in creating a mechanism for homeless and neglected children to find a family. The most recent legislature focused on helping place children with foster families as well as providing help for adoption was the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997. A truly bipartisan bill, the legislature helped clear up issues in prior acts, especially around the adoption of special needs children.

While not for everyone, hundreds of thousands of kids in the United States benefit from foster care every year, and tens of thousands of kids are adopted. For more information on Foster Care Month, or foster care in general, click here.

We'd really love to see what you can do with this week's dataset! Download the data and see what you can visualize. Create your viz and post your work to Tableau Public and Twitter with the hashtag #ThrowbackDataThursday, tagging @TThrowbackThurs. We're really looking forward to seeing what the Tableau Community can come up with!

Data Source

This week's data comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families - Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. Please be sure to cite this source on your viz.

Definitions of the 'metric' column (quoted from the source indicated above):

  • Children Served: This is an estimated count of all children who were in the public foster care system during the FFY. This number is the sum of two mutually exclusive groups of children: the children who are already in care on the first day of the fiscal year (as of October 1) and the children who enter foster care during the year. An individual child is counted only once for each year.
  • In Care on September 30th: This is an estimated count of all the children in foster care on the last day of the FFY. An individual child is included in the count for each year for which he or she is in foster care on the last day.
  • Entered Care during FY: This is an estimated count of all children who entered foster care during the FFY. An individual child is counted only once for each year, even if the child entered, exited and reentered care during the year. The most recent date of removal from home is used to determine whether the child entered foster care during the period. If an individual child entered in one year and then exits and re-enters in a subsequent year, he or she is included in the count of entries for both years.
  • Exited Care during FY: This is an estimated count of all children who exited foster care during the FFY at the end of their most recent foster care episode. An individual child is counted only once for each year, even if the child exited, re-entered and exited again during the year. The most recent date of discharge (from foster care) is the one counted. If an individual child exited care in one year and then re-enters and exits again in a subsequent year, he or she is included in the count of exits for both years.
  • Waiting for Adoption: This is an estimated count of all children who are waiting to be adopted on the last day of the FFY. An individual child is included in the count for each year in which he or she is waiting to be adopted on the last day. There is no Federal definition for children waiting to be adopted. For the purposes of this analysis, children waiting to be adopted include children with a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated. The “waiting” population excludes children whose parents' rights have been terminated, who are 16 years old and older, and who have a goal of emancipation. An individual child is included in the count for each year that he or she has these characteristics on the last day of the year.
  • Parental Rights Terminated: This is an estimated count of all children in care on the last day of the FFY whose parental rights have been terminated and who are waiting for adoption. An individual child who has these characteristics on the last day of the year is counted only once for that year.
  • Adopted: This is an estimated count of all children adopted with public child welfare agency involvement during the FFY. An individual child is counted only once for each year, even if (in rare cases) the child was adopted multiple times during the year. In cases when an individual child is adopted in one year and then adopted again in a subsequent year, he or she is included in the count of adoptions for both years.