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May 2002Vol. 3, No. 4Report Sketches Picture of Foster Care in America

How has foster care changed over the years? What are the current challenges? What is the outlook for the future? These are some of the issues covered in Foster Care Today, a paper by the Casey National Center for Resource Family Support.

Kathy Barbell and Madelyn Freundlich present factors that have influenced foster care over the years: changing societal expectations, increasing number of families with multiple problems, and the changing role of the child welfare system.

Among other things, the authors observe the following:

  • The number of substantiated child abuse and neglect reports as well as the number of children in foster care has grown since the 1960s. Contributing factors include: high rates of re-entry into care and increased placement of children from other systems such as the mental health and juvenile justice systems.
  • Families and children who are served through foster care are affected by poverty, homelessness, adolescent parenthood, parental substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.

The authors review nearly 20 years of Federal legislation that has shaped current foster care practice. They also discuss other influential trends:

  • Decreasing number of foster parents
  • Changing role and expectations of foster families
  • Relying more on kinship care
  • Using concurrent planning.

They also forecast the issues they believe will become central to foster care practice in the future.

The document is available in PDF and HTML format at

For more information, contact:

Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support (CNC)
1808 Eye St. NW 5th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20006
Phone: 202-467-4441
Fax: 202-467-4499
Toll-free: 888-295-6727

Related Items

Access the National Foster Care Month toolkit, greetings from the President, and related materials from the National Center for Resource Family Support's website ( -- this link is no longer available.

For statistics on foster care placements, visit the Data and Info Systems page of the Children's Bureau website at