There were 437,000 children in the foster care system nationwide last year — a number that dipped slightly for the first time in several years, but not by much. According to the latest HHS Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System statistics, 36% of children in foster care were removed because of parental drug use (though most experts put the number much higher). The average amount of time in foster care is 19 months, but about 1 in 5 children will spend more than 30 months in care. Those who age out of foster care without being adopted or reunited with their birth parents are disproportionately likely to end up incarcerated, homeless, addicted to drugs, or victims of sex trafficking. The sooner they find permanent, safe, loving homes, the better.
There is some good news. Last year, there were almost 62,000 children adopted out of foster care, a record. And Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families, wants to see that number grow. In her own speech at the November event, she said she wanted to reduce the number of placements foster children experienced but also reduce the time it takes to place children with permanent families. Of the 120,000 children in foster care whose parental rights have been terminated, about half are living with the families planning to adopt them. Why can’t we speed up this process? Johnson said her staff plans to “push through the red tape,” exhorting the audience: “Let’s blow this up and make it work.”
The administration has actually made a significant move in this direction. President Trump proposed a new rule overturning an Obama-era regulation that barred HHS from working with many religious foster care and adoption agencies because they discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Given that about 4 out of 5 people who foster have pointed to the support of their faith communities and churches as reason for their success, the original rule seemed terribly shortsighted. And for the dozens of faith leaders in the room, this change alone seemed like more than enough reason to support the administration. You may soon be able to add the word “adoption” to the word “judges” when you ask evangelicals why they support this president.
More on the A State of Affairs on Adoption: