Child Welfare and Treatment Statistics

In the past three decades, the United States has experienced at least three major shifts in substances of abuse that have had dramatic effects on children and families. However, the increase of opioid misuse has been described by long-time child welfare professionals as having the worst effects on child welfare systems that they have seen. Studies indicate that there is substantial overlap between parents involved in the child welfare and substance use treatment systems. However, identifying these families is difficult, as neither child welfare or substance use treatment are required to capture the data elements necessary to identify families in both systems. The following graphs present current statistics on this issue.

Prevalence of Parental Alcohol or Other Drug Use as a Contributing Factor for Reason for Removal in the United States, 2000 to 2015

This line graph shows an increase in the prevalence of parental alcohol or other drug use and a contributing factor for reason for removal in the United States from the year 2000 through the year 2015. The increase over this time period is 15.9%. The data points are: 2000: 18.5%, 2001: 19.6%, 2002: 21.9%, 2003: 23.0%, 2004: 23.9%, 2005: 24.7%, 2006: 25.9%, 2007: 26.5%, 2008: 26.0%, 2009: 26.2%, 2010: 28.5%, 2011: 29.5%, 2012: 30.7%, 2013: 31.3%, 2014: 32.2%, 2015: 34.4%. Note: Estimates are based on all children in out-of-home care at some point during Fiscal Year.
  • Child welfare workers report that most children in child welfare, and the overwhelming majority of children placed in out-of-home care, have a parent with an alcohol or other substance use disorder.
  • Parental Alcohol or Other Drug Use as a Reason for Removal has increased from about 18% to over 30% in the last 15 years.


Parental Alcohol or Other Drug Use as Reason for Removal by State, 2015

This color-coded map shows the percentage of parental alcohol or other drug use as reason for removal, by state, in the year 2015. The national average is 34.4%. The data points are: AL: 36.7%, AK: 66.5%, AZ: 27.5%, AR: 45.9%, CA: 12.0%, CO: 37.0%, CT: 37.3%, DE: 6.3%, DC: 15.4%, FL: 44.1%, GA: 31.4%, HI: 29.3%, ID: 39.6%, IL: 9.8%, IN: 52.7%, IA: 46.3%, KS: 40.9%, KY: 25.7%, LA: 6.0%, ME: 54.9%, MD: 27.8%, MA: 29.4%, MI: 32.3%, MN: 35.3%, MS: 39.5%, MO: 45.8%, MT: 38.0%, NE: 32.3%, NV: 20.1%, NH: 3.7%, NJ: 39.4%, NM: 50.3%, NY: 24.0%, NC: 37.0%, ND: 38.7%, OH: 26.8%, OK: 45.2%, OR: 59.9%, PA: 53.3%, RI: 27.8%, SC: 18.3%, SD: 45.3%, TN: 33.3%, TX: 62.5%, UT: 55.1%, VT: 25.1%, VA: 25.8%, WA: 41.1%, WV: 39.9%, WI: 20.8%, WY: 38.7%. Note: Estimates are based on all children in out-of-home care at some point during Fiscal Year.
  • Efforts in data collection have improved in recent years, but a significant undercount remains in some states.


Percentage Change in Reasons for Removal in the United States, 2009 to 2015

This horizontal bar graph shows the percentage change in reasons for removal in the United States from 2009 to 2015 (decrease or increase). It highlights the fact that “Parental Alcohol or Other Drug Use (AOD)” is the highest percent increase. The data points are: Child Disability: -37.0%, Child Behavior: -35.1%, Parent Death: -27.3%, Child AOD: -26.3%, Caretaker Unable to Cope: -22.2%, Physical Abuse: -18.2%, Sexual Abuse: -17.0%, Relinquishment: -9.1%, Abandonment: 0.0%, Inadequate Housing: 1.0%, Parent Incarceration: 14.5%, Neglect: 15.2%, Parental Alcohol and Other Drug Use (AOD): 39.8%.
  • Despite the undercount by states, the percentage of children entering foster care that had parent drug abuse reported as a reason for removal increased from 22% in 2009 to 46.4% in 2015. This is the largest increase of any reason for removal.


Number of Children Who Entered Foster Care, by Age at Removal in the United States, 2015

This horizontal bar graph shows the number of children who entered foster care, by age at removal in the United States in 2015. It highlights the fact that the highest number of children are in the “Less than 1 Year” age group. The data points are: Less than 1 Year: 47,211, Age 1: 20,027, Age 2: 17,765, Age 3: 15,754, Age 4: 14,392, Age 5: 14,013, Age 6: 13,545, Age 7: 12,688, Age 8: 11,659, Age 9: 10,303, Age 10: 9,343, Age 11: 8,862, Age 12: 9,302, Age 13: 10,607, Age 14: 12,520, Age 15: 14,466, Age 16: 14,637, Age 17: 10,291, Age 18: 994, Age 19: 281, Age 20: 87. N=268,747. Note: Estimates based on all children who entered foster care during Fiscal Year.
  • Younger children make up a larger percentage of children in out-of- home care with children under six representing over 50% of children in care. This alarming rate of young children coming into care is especially troubling, as children ages 0–3 are especially vulnerable.


Estimated Annual Number of Babies Born with Prenatal Substance Exposure*

This vertical bar graph shows the estimated number of babies born with prenatal substance exposure, by number and percentage. Percentages are applied to the almost 4 million infants born in 2014. The data points are: Heavy Drinking: 15,952 (0.4%), Binge Drinking: 91,726 (2%), Illicit Drugs: 215,356 (5%), Alcohol: 374,879 (9%), Tobacco: 614,164 (15%). Illicit Drugs includes nine categories of illicit drug use: use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants, as well as the non-medical use of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH, Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.
  • The prevalence rates of infants with prenatal substance exposure in the child welfare caseload is currently unknown due to states’ variation in identification and reporting practices.
* Percentages are applied to the almost 4 million infants born in 2014.
** This includes nine categories of illicit drug use: use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants, as well as the non-medical use of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH, Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

Sources

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2000-2016). The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Data Set.
  • National Vital Statistics Report, 2014

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