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.