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April 2002Vol. 3, No. 3Child Welfare Outcomes 1999 Annual Report Released

The Child Welfare Outcomes 1999: Annual Report is the second in a series of annual reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prepared in accordance with section 203(a) of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997. The report presents data on how States perform with respect to a set of national child welfare outcomes. The outcomes, which reflect widely accepted performance objectives for child welfare practice, are the following:

  • Reduce recurrence of child abuse and/or neglect
  • Reduce the incidence of child abuse and/or neglect in foster care
  • Increase permanency for children in foster care
  • Reduce time in foster care to reunification without increasing re-entry
  • Reduce time in foster care to adoption
  • Increase placement stability
  • Reduce placements of young children in group homes or institutions.

The series of annual reports on child welfare outcomes is central to the Department's comprehensive approach to attaining the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being for all children who come into contact with public child welfare systems.

Highlights of the findings regarding States' performance include the following:

  • The rate of recurrence of child abuse and neglect varied extensively among States. While additional information is needed to interpret the meaning of the data, the variation may reflect actual differences in State policies or definitions of child maltreatment and the level of evidence required for substantiation.
  • Maltreatment of children in foster care by caretakers is infrequent, and there is little difference among States concerning these statistics. However, any incidence of maltreatment in foster care by caretakers or facility staff is unacceptable, and States should continue their efforts to reduce the occurrence of those events.
  • The vast majority of children who exited foster care in FY 1999 exited to permanent homes. Greater efforts are needed to find permanent homes for children who are older than 12 years when they enter foster care, as children in this group are more likely to "age out" and become emancipated rather than be placed in a permanent home.
  • States that are reunifying children within 12 months also have relatively high percentages of re-entries into foster care.
  • There was extensive variation among States with respect to the percentages of children exiting foster care to adoption who had been in foster care for 24 months or less.
  • Many States need greater efforts to minimize the number of placement settings experienced by children who are in foster care for more than 12 months.
  • Most States have a low incidence of placement of young children in group homes or institutions.

Ultimately, the annual reports are intended to assess State child welfare system performance on the child welfare outcomes over time. This type of analysis was not done for the current report because of the considerable improvements in the quality and quantity of data from 1998 to 1999. These improvements made it impossible to determine whether observed changes from 1998 to 1999 are the result of changes in data quality or changes in performance. As data quality improves and stabilizes, future Child Welfare Outcomes Annual Reports will address State performance on the outcome measures over time. Upcoming reports also will incorporate key information from the Child and Family Services Reviews about State child welfare system functioning and the broader context in which child welfare systems operate. Capturing this additional information will lead to a more meaningful interpretation and understanding of States' performance on the outcome measures.

To obtain a copy of the report, contact:

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
330 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: 800-394-3366 or 703-385-7565

The report is also available through the Children's Bureau website at