Adoption has increased in importance as both an exit goal and exit outcome for 20-25% of children in public foster care. Although reunification with parents or another biological relative retains primacy as the first option for permanency planning, the percentage of children actually reunified with a biological family member has decreased by nine percent from 60% to 51%. The author uses data collected by the federal government and reported in AFCARS Reports collected over 16 fiscal years to analyze the principal demographic characteristics of children in U. S. public foster care; examine adoption and reunification as exit goals and outcomes for children in foster care; and link patterns and trends in the data with innovative strategies aimed at improving the effectiveness of the public foster care system in regard to permanency planning and post-placement family wellbeing. Although the AFCARS data analyzed indicate that the U. S. public foster care system has improved in a number of areas, the author takes the position that more can be done both to prevent family disruptions and to support positive permanency planning outcomes. She also advocates improving some existing policies along with developing new proactive strategies.

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