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Back To Vidyya The First Child Welfare Outcomes Report Released By HHS Department

Child Abuse & Neglect Rates Down, More Than 100,000 Children Wait To Be Adopted

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala released a new report on 09 August 2000 that compiles state and national data on children who are abused and neglected, in foster care, adopted, or waiting to be adopted. The report was required by the Adoption and Safe Families Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1997, and the data it contains, together with child welfare monitoring reviews, will be used to hold states accountable for services to at-risk children.

"This new report will help states see how they are performing on the key child welfare measures from year to year, and allow federal policy makers to chart progress in meeting the needs of children and families served by the child welfare system," Secretary Shalala said. "Because of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, we're now seeing the first increases in adoptions in the history of the child welfare program. This report will help each state build on this encouraging achievement and give more children safe and permanent homes. It will help us implement a new, results-oriented approach to federal monitoring of these state programs."

The report contains data on each state's population, the number of children in poverty, the number of children reported to child protective services, the number of children in foster care, the number of children waiting to be adopted, and the number of children adopted. There are also partial summary numbers derived from 30 states that provided the most comprehensive data. The data covers 1997 for child abuse and neglect and 1998 for foster care and adoption. Some states report on some of the measures differently, and states have been working vigorously to improve their outcomes for children.

The report confirms that incidence of child abuse and neglect has declined in recent years, while the number of adoptions has increased. In 1998, 36,000 children were adopted, a significant increase from 28,000 in 1996. Still, more than 100,000 children remain in foster care waiting for a secure and permanent adoptive home.

Under new regulations issued on January 25, 2000, the state data in this report will be used to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children, children in foster care, and children awaiting adoption. The regulations set up a new federal review process which will measure states for the first time on the quality of services provided to, and outcome results for, at-risk children. States will also be subject to tough new penalties if they fail to protect children adequately as well as being given the opportunity to undertake corrective action plans.

Today's report includes data on state performance on six of the measures in the new monitoring process. The six measures are: recurrence of child abuse and neglect, incidence of child abuse and neglect in foster care, time to reunification, re-entries into foster care, time in foster care to adoption, and stability of foster care placements.

Later this year, HHS will develop national standards on those six measures to which individual state numbers will be compared, as one part of the review process, to determine how well states are performing. Other review features include an assessment of additional state data and intensive on-site interviews with children, families and stakeholders. HHS undertook an extensive consultation process with states, local agencies, tribes, courts, unions, child advocacy organizations and other interested parties to develop the measures in the report.

The first round of states to be reviewed for the fiscal year 2001, starting this fall, are: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Vermont.

"Never before has there been the range of statistics on child welfare as there is in the Child Welfare Outcomes Report," said Olivia A. Golden, HHS assistant secretary for children and families. "As we undertake the unprecedented reviews in partnership with the states, these numbers will be critical to assess how well each state is protecting children, keeping them safe and well and finding them permanent homes quickly. We want to encourage states to utilize this data as a vital part of managing their programs to improve results for children and their families."

The Adoption and Safe Families Act made the most sweeping changes to the child welfare program in this country in its history. This landmark bipartisan legislation was based in large part on the recommendations of the Clinton Administration's Adoption 2002 report to meet the president's goals of doubling adoptions and permanent placements by the year 2002 and moving children more quickly from foster care to permanent homes. The law made it clear that the safety and well being of children must be the paramount concerns of state child welfare services. The act created bonuses to states for increasing adoptions and tightened time frames for making permanent placement decisions for children. Also, it ensured health insurance coverage for all special needs children in subsidized adoptions, and continued funding for services to keep families together when it is appropriate and safe.

The report will be available on the World Wide Web shortly at the following address:

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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