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Research Matters No. 98: The Growing Number of Alaska Children in Foster Care

20% more than 2014 monthly average


Nearly 2,700 Alaska children were in foster care in any given month of 2015—20% more than the monthly average in 2014. The number of Alaska children in foster care has been climbing since 2012, but by far the biggest increase was in 2015. Last year, more children of all races, all ages, and all regions of the state were in foster care. A new paper by Diwakar Vadapalli and Jessica Passini of ISER reports on trends among children in foster care from 2011 through 2015. They found particularly significant changes in 2015:


•  Numbers of children in foster care from all races increased in 2015, but the fastest growth was among White and other non-Native children. The monthly average number of White children in foster care was up a third, from 583 to 777, and the number of foster children of other races was up 50%, from 269 to 406.


• The number of Alaska Native children in foster care increased 11% in 2015, to a monthly average of 1,514. They still make up the largest share of children in foster care—but that share dropped from 62% in 2014 to 56% in 2015, because numbers of non-Native foster children grew faster. That was the first time in a decade Alaska Native children made up less than 60% of all children in foster care.


• More children of all ages were in foster care in 2015, but the youngest (4 and younger) remained the largest number and they saw the fastest increase—more than 25%, from a monthly average of 815 in 2014 to 1,041 in 2015. 


• The number of foster children in Anchorage jumped 28% in 2015—the fastest increase in any region of the state. But other regions saw substantial increases as well—22% in the Southcentral region, nearly 20% in the Southeast, and 16% in the Northern region.


• All regions of Alaska had foster-care placement rates in the double-digits in 2015. That rate varied from 10 per 1,000 children in the Northern and Southeast regions to 17 per 1,000 children in the Western region. The rate in Anchorage was 13 per 1,000 children—up from 10 per 1,000 in 2014.  The comparable national rate is about 5 to 6 children per 1,000.


Download the paper, The Growing Number of Alaska Children in Foster Care, 2011-2015 (PDF, 2.0MB). If you have questions, get in touch with Diwakar Vadapalli, assistant professor of public policy at ISER,  at 907-891-6686 or  dkvadapalli@alaska.edu.


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