Foster Care:

Increases in Adoption Rates

HEHS-99-114R: Published: Apr 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1999.

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Cynthia Maher Fagnoni
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined the source of information states used to derive both the fiscal year (FY) 1998 and the base numbers of finalized foster care adoptions, and identified factors that contributed to the increases in foster care adoptions in 5 states--Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, and Texas.

GAO noted that: (1) officials in 4 of the 5 states reviewed said that they derived the FY 1998 and base numbers of finalized foster care adoptions reported by the North American Council on Adoptable Children from their state child welfare databases; (2) these databases contain child-specific records of a state's foster care population and are the source of data submitted by these states to the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System; (3) the fifth state conducted a manual count of finalized adoptions; although that state included the name of each foster child in the tabulation of FY 1998 adoptions, it did not do so for the earlier base numbers; (4) thus, with the exception of base numbers for one state, all 5 states could identify the individual children included in their counts; (5) the emphasis on adoption in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 was among several factors that state officials cited as contributing to an increase in FY 1998 foster care adoptions over the base numbers; (6) other factors included administrative reform, such as assigning additional staff to efforts to move children toward permanent placement, increased recruitment efforts, such as state funding for recruitment of adoptive parents for children with special needs, and court-related changes, such as an increase in the number of staff attorneys to help caseworkers prepare cases for court reviews; (7) an official in one state told GAO that she expects the number of adoptions to continue to increase; (8) officials in two other states expected the number of adoptions in that state to remain high but to not increase above the level estimated for FY 1998; and (9) officials in the remaining two states did not offer estimates of future adoption levels.

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