Preventing Placement

As we came into 2000, the U.S. child welfare shift was again focusing on preventing placement. We knew that child welfare could not provide everything for all children, and we began to recognize that families are integral to the permanency planning process.  When placement into the child welfare system was not able to be prevented, continued efforts were made to help children in foster care find adoptive families.  New approaches to promote awareness and recruit adoptive families were developing.  In 2002, AdoptUSKids, a project run by the U. S. Children’s Bureau through a partnership with the Adoption Exchange Association, created the first national photolisting website featuring children waiting in foster care for adoptive families.  By the end of the decade, AdoptUSkids had helped over 10,000 children in foster care find families.  Additionally, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 was designed to improve outcomes for children in foster care by improving connections between children in out-of-home care and their relatives.  It also improves the transition for children aging out of foster care and aims to improve educational stability and promotes adoption incentives for the adoption of special needs children.

The population of adoptive parents has also drastically changed over time.  From a past where traditionally adoptive parents were married Caucasian couples who could not biologically have children of their own and where foster parents were not permitted to adopt the children in their care, the adoptive parents of today are people of all ages and races, married, coupled or unwed, male or female, straight or gay, already parents or first time parents, genetically tied to the child they are adopting or with no genetic ties, with or without fertility issues, who all want to become parents through adoption.

Approximately 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. annually.  Current statistics show that the largest number of children are adopted by biological relatives or stepparents (40%). Factors contributing to this include divorce and remarriage rates as well as rates of unwed couples having children.  For children in foster care, foster parents represent the largest adoption resource, and relatives are the second largest adoption resource.  These statistics may continue to grow as federal and state policies grant partiality to birth relatives and current foster care families to provide children with consistency and as these relationships are already established.