Adoption/Foster Care Trends

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Adoption/Foster Care Trends

Trends in foster care and adoption seem to take time to gain momentum and remain trends for some time. This is the case with both of the trends identified in this report. The first trend has seen more families adopt children from foster care. As a result, 2018 set a record in this area. The second trend has been developing for over a decade. It is the trend toward open adoptions. Although initially there was considerable opposition, it is now becoming the norm. The insights provided are based on 2018 data, which is currently the most up to date.

More Families Choosing to Adopt Through Foster Care

  • Over time there has been a decrease in the number of domestic infant adoptions; as a result, there has been an increase in the number of families that are choosing to adopt through the foster care system.
  • The Adoption and Safe Families Act was enacted in 1997, introducing time limits around permanency when the rights of the parents have been terminated. The impact has seen more families looking to adopt children from foster care.
  • One advantage of adopting from foster care is the cost. It costs significantly less to adopt from foster care than it does to adopt a child through a private arrangement. State governments or child welfare agencies usually arrange foster care adoptions.
  • The number of foster care adoptions in West Virginia, Arizona, and Montana has increased by more than 50% in recent years. The median age of foster care adoption is 8 years.
  • The trend to adopt through foster care is having an impact on the lives of the children who are in foster care. Just over half of the children who enter foster care will be returned to their parents. The remainder of the children can be adopted. The trend to adopt from foster care has seen the number of adoptions increase. This means that children are less likely to suffer the negative consequences of being in foster care long-term.
  • Foster care adoptions are completed through either a public or private agency. The impact of the trend is that more families are looking to complete programs that assist in dealing with trauma. This is because several states require a program of this nature to be completed, as so many of the children in foster care are dealing with some sort of trauma.
  • This trend has not impacted significantly on adoption organizations as the adoptions are completed through either a public agency or an agency that has contracted to the state to complete this work. Often there is no cost to the prospective parents.

Open Adoptions more Acceptable

  • Back in the 1980s, when the concept of open adoption was introduced in Texas, it met some staunch opposition. Social workers raised doubts over the chances of a successful adoption id the adoptive family was to stay in direct contact with the birth mother and father.
  • In many states and with many agencies, it took many years before they started operating an open adoption policy. The practice starting building momentum as a trend when research began to illustrate the benefits for the children. As a result, both agencies and families are more comfortable with the children maintaining contact with their birth parents.
  • One adoptive father, Will Duncan, explains, "The more I thought about it, I realized all my other relationships that are healthy are based on openness and honesty without somebody mediating them. So why should this be any different?"
  • The reality is that with the internet and social media, even if the adoptive parents do not agree to open adoption, there is an inevitability that the child will seek out the birth parents. One of the advantages of open adoption is that this can be done in a planned manner that is in the best interests of the child.
  • It is a complex trend as some adoptive parents find the process threatening, some may feel that it means they will have to compete to get the attention of the child, and some think that contact will only result in feelings of grief and loss for the child As time has passed there has been a realization from all parties concerned that these feelings will exist regardless of whether the birth parents are involved or not.
  • The contact does not have to be overwhelming. It could be just the exchange of letters or social media messages, or it could be contact in person. Recent research has shown that maintaining contact with the birth parents is beneficial for the adoptive parents and helps them make the required post-adoption adjustments.
  • This trend has had some impact on adoption agencies, as some are involved in helping to facilitate contact between the children and their birth parents. Still, the level of involvement and work varies, with some agencies experiencing little change in workload or costs when the adoption is open.
  • In many respects, open adoption is slowly becoming the new norm, and the reality is that in the last few years, agencies have adjusted to accommodate this trend.
  • If the adoptive parents are undertaking courses or similar before adopting, this is an area that they can get advice and training on.

Insights into Foster Care and Adoption

  • In the year ended 30 September 2019, 687,000 children were involved with Child Protective Services. Of this number 437,000 were in care at the end of the 2018 financial year.
  • In 2018, 263,00 children entered the system, while 250,000 exited it.
  • 71,300 parents had their parental rights terminated. 125,000 children are currently waiting for adoption and 61,300 children were adopted.
  • The number of children in the system waiting to be adopted has remained steady between 26% and 28% over the last decade.
  • Adoption figures have been steadily increasing over the last five years. 2018 marked a record high with 25% of the discharges from the service being adoptions.
  • West Virginia has the highest number of foster care adoptions with a rate of 19.04 per 10,000. The US national average is 5.10 per 10,000.

Research Strategy

To determine the trends in adoption and foster care, we reviewed a range of industry publications, government reports, and expert opinions. The trends we have identified are those that were mentioned most frequently in research and publications as being current trends. They had also generated the most discussion among industry experts.