A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families shows a drop in the number of U.S. children in foster care. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report, which is released annually, finds that the number of children in foster care dropped by 8 percent in one year and by more than 20 percent over the last decade. States including California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania lowered their numbers drastically. The drop in foster care rates can be attributed, in part, to recent widespread reforms, including the 2008 passage of The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Among others, Fostering Connections provided states the option to place children existing foster care with relative guardians and to support youth aging out of foster care to the age of 21; strengthened the coordination and oversight of health care for foster children; and established new requirements aimed at improving the oversight of foster children’s educational stability and connection to family members.

Although we’ve seen progress, the picture is not all rosy. States including Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas continue to take children into foster care at relatively high rates. And while we’re seeing a drop in the overall number of children in foster care, far too many continue to experience abuse and neglect, languish in suboptimal placements, and are denied essential treatment, services and supports. And, far too many families are separated prematurely and never given the opportunity to receive support, address needs, strengthen relationships and keep kids at home.

In the coming years, we need to work toward a comprehensive reform of our foster care system. We need to make more substantial investments in a broad continuum of services for children and families, including prevention, early intervention, treatment and post-permanency services. Doing so will ensure that states have the resources they need to adequately care for the countless children and families that walk through their agency doors each day.