Why new data on foster care and adoption is encouraging

How Christians can respond

November 5, 2019

November is National Adoption Month. A time when the nation collectively recognizes the value and importance of adoption and providing safe and loving homes for vulnerable children. Each year, the president issues a proclamation in honor of National Adoption Month, and many churches will participate in Orphan Sunday on Nov. 10. The purpose of Orphan Sunday is for Christians to stand up for the orphan, because “we are a people called to defend the fatherless, to care for the child who has no family, and to visit orphans in their distress.” As we pause to have an intentional conversation around the topic of child welfare, we ought to educate ourselves on the data of children in foster care in the United States.  

New data on foster care and adoption  

Each year, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), releases a report on the status of foster care in our country. The AFCARS report analyzes the most recent data available and the trends in foster care. The  FY (fiscal year) 2018 data contains some encouraging statistics.  

While the number of children in foster care is still very high, the number has dropped for the first time since 2011. At the end of FY 2017, the number of children in care was 441,000, and according to the new data, the number is now 437,300. This is extremely encouraging because it means that fewer children will go through the trauma of being separated from their biological families, and placed into foster care. Of course, a child’s safety is always of top concern, but in recent years, there’s been a shift in how the child welfare community thinks about foster care funding.   

Much of the child welfare community has been focused on seeking to provide holistic care to a vulnerable family, and providing resources that help keep the family unit together. In February 2018, the Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law. “Family First” is a bipartisan bill that allows states to use their Title IV-E funds for prevention services for eligible children at risk of foster care placement and their families. October 2019 is the first month these new changes will go into effect. The goal is to keep children safely in their families and avoid foster care. We should seek to put policies into place that promote human flourishing, strong families, and a safe and loving environment for children.  

The Lord cares for the vulnerable, and so should we. Christ set the example of what selfless love looks like in a world marred by sin.

Another important statistic from the report to note is that the number of finalized adoptions within U.S. child welfare agency involvement increased to over 63,100. This is the largest number of adoptions reported by AFCARS since data collection began in FY 1995. Approximately one-fourth of the children and youth in foster care are eligible for adoption, meaning there’s no chance for them to be reunified with their biological family. It ought to greatly encourage us to know that a record number of adoptions from foster care have taken place, and that tens of thousands of children have found a forever family.  

How should Christians respond to this data?  

Psalm 68:6 reminds us that “God sets the lonely in families.” Christians ought to rejoice greatly that a record number of children are being adopted into safe, permanent, and loving homes. We know that there will always be broken families and vulnerable children this side of eternity, because sin exists and people hurt one another, sometimes in drastic ways. Yet, Christians should have a renewed sense of the importance of loving and caring for vulnerable children.   

The Lord cares for the vulnerable, and so should we. Christ set the example of what selfless love looks like in a world marred by sin. While our love will never be perfect, like Christ’s was, we should seek to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor includes vulnerable kids in foster care and in need of adoption We should work to reduce the number of children entering foster care and seek creative solutions for wholistically supporting vulnerable families.  

Adoption is a redemptive pro-life option, and we should ensure that our efforts are going to care for children after they are born. If you need some suggestions on how to get involved in the lives of vulnerable children, James Williams offers 10 practical ways. May we continue to volunteer our time, talent, and treasure to seek the flourishing of the most vulnerable among us. And may we continue to pray for a decrease in the number of children who go into foster care and for more children waiting for good homes to be adopted. Let’s pause and rejoice over these encouraging new numbers and let them propel us to further good deeds.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik

Chelsea Sobolik serves as the Director of Public Policy with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in the Washington, D.C. office. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea has been published at the Wall Street Journal, USA … Read More