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Springfield, Ill. - The number of Illinois children living in out-of-home care is the lowest in a decade, according to statistics recently released by the Department of Children and Family Services. At the same time, the state, which has led the nation in adoptions for three consecutive years, remains a top performer in finding permanent homes for waiting children.

DCFS reported that the number of children living in foster homes and other kinds of substitute care have declined to their lowest level since 1991. Only 26,590 children currently remain in the state's substitute care system, representing more than a 50 percent decline from a peak of 51,331 children living in substitute care in Fiscal Year 1997.

Declining child abuse reports and protective custodies have eased demand for substitute care. The DCFS child abuse hotline (800-25-ABUSE) received 100,362 child reports in fiscal year 2001, compared with the record 139,720 child reports taken during Fiscal Year 1995. The number of children taken into protective custody has also declined, from a record 9,037 protective custodies taken in Fiscal Year 1995, to 5,147 protective custodies taken in fiscal year 2001.

On a related note, DCFS has continued its trend of moving nearly a third of its foster children into permanent placements each year. In Fiscal Year 2001, 4,208 foster children were placed into adoptive homes.

An additional 1,140 children were also placed into permanent homes through the agency's unique subsidized guardianship program, where an individual or family assumes guardianship of a child as an alternative to adoption. Another 2,817 children were reunified with their natural families. In all, 8,165 foster children - or 30 percent of all children living in foster care -- were moved into permanent homes during the past Fiscal Year.

Governor George H. Ryan stressed the importance of focusing on the best interests of individual children in the state's care.

"The family unit is the foundation of our society, and each child deserves the benefits and security of a permanent home they can call their own." Governor Ryan noted. "Illinois is still a leader in the country in adoptions and guardianships with fewer children in substitute care and more children in permanent homes."

"One of the major reasons for these successes has been our increased emphasis on permanency," said DCFS Director Jess McDonald, who credited new laws and the efforts of private child welfare agencies in helping waiting children find permanent homes. "Clearly, the investments we've made in recent years have paid off in happier, safer futures for tens of thousands of children. Illinois continues to rank among the top states in the nation achieving adoptions for children in foster care."

"Under Governor Ryan's leadership, Illinois has achieved over 20,000 adoptions and guardianships over the last three years, which ranks Illinois first in the nation overall in providing permanency for children," McDonald added.

Director McDonald commended DCFS staff, the private agencies who work with his Department, as well as all the families who help move foster children into permanent homes.

McDonald also added that more than 900 foster children are currently eligible for adoption and there is a constant need for more people to become foster parents. People interested in adoption can call the Adoption Information Center of Illinois at 800-572-2390. People interested in becoming foster parents can call the state's Foster Parent Hotline, 800-624-KIDS.


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