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States with the most children in foster care

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Brian A Jackson // Shutterstock

States with the most children in foster care

There are at least 437,500 children who are currently living in foster care throughout the United States. These children have been taken from parents who have not provided adequate care, and have now been placed either in a foster home, with relatives, or in a group home.

Although most states have seen a steady decline in the number of children needing homes over the last decade, most have also seen a shocking reversal in trends in the last few years. Economic recession coupled with the opioid epidemic are the most significant factors in this recent spike in numbers. These circumstances combined with a serious lack of nationwide funding and support are contributing to a foster care crisis.

Stacker has collected data from the KIDS COUNT Data Center to find out the number of children in foster care in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in 2006 and 2016, as well as the change of percentage of children in foster care over these 10 years. The numbers with the population of the respective states were then compared using data from the American Community Survey 2016.

Read on to find out how the states are ranked by the highest to lowest number of foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016.

RELATED: How many children live in poverty in your state?

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Paul Hamilton // Flickr

#51. Virginia

Foster care children in 2016: 4,890

Foster care children in 2006: 7,843

10-year percent change: -37.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 58.1

Virginia comes in with the lowest number of foster children, and this might have to do with the fact that while most states focus on reunification with families, Virginia advocates for adoption. More than 60% of kids in foster care in this state end up being adopted by their foster parent.

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red, white, and black eyes forever // Flickr

#50. Maryland

Foster care children in 2016: 3,841

Foster care children in 2006: 11,505

10-year percent change: -66.6%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 63.8

Maryland comes in with an impressive 66% decrease of foster children in the last decade. However, with recent developments at the border, this number may soon take a spike. In the last year, immigration agents have been sending increasing numbers of children to Maryland since the Trump administration announced it would separate undocumented families at the southwest border.

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Public Domain Pictures

#49. New Jersey

Foster care children in 2016: 6,527

Foster care children in 2006: 10,594

10-year percent change: -38.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 73

New Jersey is one of the top states in placing foster children with families, with an impressive 91% of kids placed in homes. The state has shifted from an institutional to a home-based care, thanks in part to the advocacy of children's rights group, Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

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Smallbones // Wikimedia Commons

#48. South Carolina

Foster-care children in 2016: 3,968

Foster-care children in 2006: 4,920

10-year percent change: -19.3%

Foster-care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 80

Even though South Carolina ranks near the top of the list, the number of children in foster care has increased dramatically over the last five years while the number of beds has decreased. The Department of Social Services has launched the campaign Champions for Children in an attempt to recruit up to 1,500 more foster families.

 


 

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Becky Snyder // Flickr

#47. Delaware

Foster care children in 2016: 780

Foster care children in 2006: 1,074

10-year percent change: -27.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 81.9

Despite its good standing, a growing opioid epidemic in Delaware has seen the number of children in need of care rise in recent years. The state—through organizations like Grandfamilies.org—is looking to entice relatives, especially grandparents, to step in and help fill the gap.

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likeaduck // Flickr

#46. Idaho

Foster care children in 2016: 1,518

Foster care children in 2006: 1,850

10-year percent change: -17.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 90.2

Idaho stresses reunification with parents, which makes it hard for foster parents interested in adopting children to avoid the emotional turmoil of having to say goodbye to a cherished little one. As a result, many would-be foster parents are currently opting out.

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Pixabay

#45. New Hampshire

Foster care children in 2016: 1,220

Foster care children in 2006: 1,146

10-year percent change: 6.5%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 91.4

New Hampshire has seen an increase in the number of children entering the foster care system, and there are not enough families or social workers to support the growing number of children in need. One program in place to help is Primary Caring Adults (PCA), where adults can act as guides and mentors without having to commit to foster parenting.

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Skyguy414 // Wikicommons

#44. Utah

Foster care children in 2016: 2,838

Foster care children in 2006: 2,427

10-year percent change: 16.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 93

More children than ever are in need of care in Utah, and shelters are filling up fast due to lack of foster families. Many cite funding issues as the reason for recent spikes of numbers of children in need. The compensation rate for foster families has not changed in the last eight years.

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Palacemusic // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Louisiana

Foster care children in 2016: 4,461

Foster care children in 2006: 5,213

10-year percent change: -14.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 95.3

A similar situation plagues Louisiana, where the foster pay rate hasn't increased since 2007 and the social services agency is understaffed. Budget cuts continue, causing concern for the future of foster care in this state.

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Max Pixel

#42. New York

Foster care children in 2016: 19,702

Foster care children in 2006: 29,973

10-year percent change: -34.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 99.8

Although the New York foster care rates have gone down in the last 10 years, reports of child neglect and maltreatment are on the rise. Each year, the Administration for Children's Services removes about 5,000 children in the five boroughs from their parents.

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Public Domain

#41. North Carolina

Foster care children in 2016: 10,425

Foster care children in 2006: 11,115

10-year percent change: -6.2%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 102.7

Poverty, unemployment, and the state's opioid crisis are to blame for a recent spike in the number of foster children in North Carolina. Once again, overworked and underpaid social workers mean more children are falling through the cracks. The Children's Home Society of North Carolina is the largest private, nonprofit foster care and adoption agency in the state and is working to connect children with loving homes.

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Zainubrazvi // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Colorado

Foster care children in 2016: 5,733

Foster care children in 2006: 8,139

10-year percent change: -29.6%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 103.5

Colorado is yet another state facing a shortage of foster parents. On average, 14 children are removed from their parents every day and placed in the child welfare system. The last three years have seen this number increase steadily. Visit co4kids.org to get more information on fostering or adopting.

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Larry Johnson // Flickr

#39. Alabama

Foster care children in 2016: 5,053

Foster care children in 2006: 7,157

10-year percent change: -29.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 103.9

Alabama is another state that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis and as a result has seen a rising number of children in foster care in recent years. Right now there is a waiting list of more than 250 children who need to be placed in homes. To find out more details about foster care adoption in the state, visit HeartGalleryAlabama.com.

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IIP Photo Archive // Flickr

#38. Texas

Foster care children in 2016: 30,738

Foster care children in 2006: 30,848

10-year percent change: -0.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 110.3

As methamphetamine and opioid use go up in the state of Texas, so does the number of children in need of care. Although state reforms are under way, the current situation is not getting any better. To find out more about helping kids in need in Texas visit texasfamilyinitiative.org.

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Yinan Chen // Flickr

#37. Hawaii

Foster care children in 2016: 1,605

Foster care children in 2006: 2,355

10-year percent change: -31.8%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 112.4

From 2004 to 2013, the number of children in foster care in Hawaii dropped dramatically. But since 2014 the numbers have been on the rise. As state officials try to figure out why, the current data points to the same reason why numbers have been on the rise all across the states: substance abuse.

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Anthony Quintano // Flickr

#36. Connecticut

Foster care children in 2016: 4,119

Foster care children in 2006: 7,448

10-year percent change: -44.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 115.2

As some states sadly try to curtail gay adoptions, Connecticut's child welfare agency has launched a fantastic initiative to recruit members of the state's LGBT community to become foster and adoptive parents. The department plans to work with gay and lesbian organizations, such as the Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and LGBT community centers, to encourage people to apply to become foster parents.

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JJBers // Flickr

#35. Florida

Foster care children in 2016: 23,810

Foster care children in 2006: 29,229

10-year percent change: -18.5%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 115.5

The state of Florida recently diverted funds from group homes in a bid to work on preventing children being taken from their homes in the first place. As a result, Florida now faces extra financial strain as the state tries to provide for the increasing number of children being placed in group homes. Donations can be made to Homesafe, an organization that has comprehensive programs in place to help Florida children in need.

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Ken Lund // Wikicommons

#34. Michigan

Foster care children in 2016: 11,599

Foster care children in 2006: 20,142

10-year percent change: -42.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 116.8

Like in many states, there was a steady decline in foster care numbers up until recent years. But since 2016 the number has been slowly increasing, raising red flags across the state. Interested in helping? Contact Samaritas, Michigan's largest private foster care organization, helping more than 800 children daily.

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Public Domain

#33. Ohio

Foster care children in 2016: 13,725

Foster care children in 2006: 16,631

10-year percent change: -17.5%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 118.2

The majority of foster cases in Ohio's child welfare system are related to drug use—including opioids—and it's only expected to get worse. The state's START program aims to provide intervention for kids who have been the victims of parental substance abuse and neglect.

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Jaknouse // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Georgia

Foster care children in 2016: 12,381

Foster care children in 2006: 13,175

10-year percent change: -6%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 120.1

Georgia's kids need help. Between 2017 and 2018, 500 foster homes closed. Some say it's because of good outcomes, but others claim it's because more children are being taken from foster homes and placed with relatives instead. In any case, the number of children far exceeds the number of homes available.

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Ad Meskens // Wikicommons

#31. Washington, D.C.

Foster care children in 2016: 826

Foster care children in 2006: 2,368

10-year percent change: -65.1%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 121.3

Washington, D.C.'s foster care rates have dropped dramatically over the last 10 years, perhaps in due part to its $1.2 million foster grandparent program, which matches senior citizens with high risk children in D.C. schools. The initiative is run by The United Planning Organization, a community agency founded in 1962 to bring programs to the District's low-income residents.

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Martin H. // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Tennessee

Foster care children in 2016: 8,333

Foster care children in 2006: 8,618

10-year percent change: -3.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 125.3

The opioid crisis is taking its toll on the kids of Tennessee. There are approximately 8,000 children currently in need of foster care, with less than 4,000 foster families able to provide homes for them. Legislative controversy over whether to allow to gay couples to be apply to be foster parents is not helping.

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Asaavedra32 // Wikicommons

#29. New Mexico

Foster care children in 2016: 2,610

Foster care children in 2006: 2,357

10-year percent change: 10.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 125.4

New Mexico is one of the few beacons of light in terms of opioid abuse. The state has seen a steady decline in the rates of substance abuse over the last three years. This could be a promising sign for the state of foster children.

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Derek.cashman // Wikicommons

#28. Pennsylvania

Foster care children in 2016: 16,086

Foster care children in 2006: 21,135

10-year percent change: -23.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 125.8

More than 5,600 people died in Pennsylvania of drug overdoses in 2017, many of whom were parents. Pennsylvania is joining other states in pushing for more assistance for grandparents who are raising grandchildren, a situation becoming more and more common due to opioid abuse. Two bills were recently passed unanimously in the Pennsylvania House and Senate that aim to offer financial and emotional support to grandparents taking on parental roles.

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Jeremy Thompson // Flickr

#27. Illinois

Foster care children in 2016: 16,113

Foster care children in 2006: 18,371

10-year percent change: -12.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 125.9

Illinois has taken the role of family one step further and passed the Fictive Kin Law in 2015, which expanded the definition of family to include individuals unrelated by birth or marriage who have developed close ties to the child or the child's family. This has broadened the options for children in need, who could previously only live with grandparents. Now they can be taken in by close family friends, godparents, step-relatives, or a relative's spouse or partner from a civil union.

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Pixabay

#26. Wisconsin

Foster care children in 2016: 7,382

Foster care children in 2006: 7,641

10-year percent change: -3.4%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 127.7

The number of foster care children in Wisconsin reached a 10-year high last year. Experts say the growing opiate drug abuse epidemic coupled with poverty are to blame for the increase.

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Jeremy Thompson // Flickr

#25. Maine

Foster care children in 2016: 1,837

Foster care children in 2006: 2,076

10-year percent change: -11.5%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 138

The number of people looking to become foster parents has dropped dramatically in Maine, while the number of kids in need of homes is on the rise. Many claim that the financial rewards are too little, the system is suffering from many glitches, and there is a lack of support from the government.

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heipei // Wikimedia Commons

#24. California

Foster care children in 2016: 54,685

Foster care children in 2006: 78,373

10-year percent change: -30.2%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 139.3

Within California, Los Angeles County is home to about a third of the state's foster kids. So it's not surprising that L.A. is fast becoming a center for foundations working to improve foster care. Recently, philanthropist couple Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker donated $10 million to start the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families, which will focus on child welfare in the state.

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Trevor Bexon // Flickr

#23. Nevada

Foster care children in 2016: 4,251

Foster care children in 2006: 5,047

10-year percent change: -15.8%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 144.6

Thousands of Nevada children are in foster care, and across the state, there are not enough homes. One of the big issues in Nevada is finding homes for children in rural areas. It's almost impossible to find homes in the same communities the children come from, so children are often sent hundreds of miles away. One organization working on community-wide efforts to end youth homelessness in Nevada is The Movement.

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Tiffany Von Arnim // Flickr

#22. Washington

Foster care children in 2016: 10,959

Foster care children in 2006: 10,457

10-year percent change: 4.8%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 150.4

Like Georgia, Washington is looking to place more foster children with grandparents and other relatives instead of in foster homes. It's called kinship care, and Washington child services staff are trained to work with grandparents and relatives to support and prepare them to take on the responsibility of raising children in need.

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Martin H. // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Rhode Island

Foster care children in 2016: 1,654

Foster care children in 2006: 2,842

10-year percent change: -41.8%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 156.6

Rhode Island social workers are overloaded with cases and can't keep up. Almost half of the children in need of foster care are living in group homes instead of with families. For more information on how to help visit the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families website.

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Pixabay

#20. Minnesota

Foster care children in 2016: 8,793

Foster care children in 2006: 7,156

10-year percent change: 22.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 159.3

Minnesota has a skyrocketing number of children in need. On an average day in 2017, there were approximately 9,900 children under the system's care. Problems at home span from parental drug abuse to allegations of neglect and physical abuse. People interested in helping can contact the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

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Willem van Bergen // Flickr

#19. Massachusetts

Foster care children in 2016: 10,910

Foster care children in 2006: 11,499

10-year percent change: -5.1%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 160.2

Like all other states—though there has been a drop over the last decade—there has been a rise of numbers of children in need in Massachusetts over the last few years. To mitigate the numbers, a bill was passed in 2017 that requires the state Department of Children and Families to search for every single living family member of a child before placing them in foster care.

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BenFrantzDale // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Arkansas

Foster care children in 2016: 4,880

Foster care children in 2006: 3,434

10-year percent change: 42.1%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 163.3

Thanks to a concentrated effort over the past two years, the Arkansas foster care system has shown marked improvements. It is one of the only states that has fewer children in foster care today than it did in 2016. This is attributed to an increase in children being placed with relatives rather than in homes.

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Napa // Wikicommons

#17. South Dakota

Foster care children in 2016: 1,416

Foster care children in 2006: 1,648

10-year percent change: -14.1%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 163.6

A rise in methamphetamine abuse is leading to more children needing foster care in the state of South Dakota. There's currently a statewide shortage of care, with the greatest need amongst for Native American children and teenagers.

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Michell Rathwell // Flickr

#16. Wyoming

Foster care children in 2016: 993

Foster care children in 2006: 1,301

10-year percent change: -23.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 169.6

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of children in foster care, with an inordinate number of incarcerated parents. There is little in the way of support systems and nonprofit organizations to help those in need. For more information on how to help, visit Wyoming AdoptUSkids.

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Angry Aspie // Wikicommons

#15. Kentucky

Foster care children in 2016: 7,812

Foster care children in 2006: 7,606

10-year percent change: 2.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 176.1

Now reaching close to 10,000 kids in need and only 5,000 foster homes, Kentucky joins the ranks of states most affected by the opioid crisis. The state leads the nation, however, in the number of children who lived with relatives other than their parents between 2016 and 2018.

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Ken Lund // Flickr

#14. Mississippi

Foster care children in 2016: 5,486

Foster care children in 2006: 3,203

10-year percent change: 71.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 183.6

Mississippi's foster care system is underfunded and has faced a slew of challenges over the years. In fact, there is currently a lawsuit against the state, claiming the government's latest attempt to fix the system's long-running problems has failed.

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Andrew Filer // Wikicommons

#13. North Dakota

Foster care children in 2016: 1,407

Foster care children in 2006: 1,331

10-year percent change: 5.7%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 185.6

The number of children entering foster care in North Dakota has been on the rise for the last five years. In 2016, there were just over 1,000 new entries in the foster care system, with more than 450 cases due to parental substance abuse. Resources for those wanting more information can be found at Path North Dakota.

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Rick Obst // Flickr

#12. Oregon

Foster care children in 2016: 7,625

Foster care children in 2006: 10,661

10-year percent change: -28.5%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 186.3

High employee turnover and overburdened case workers are some of the root causes of the problems faced by the child welfare system in Oregon. While outcomes may have improved for foster children in recent years, they still fall below federal standards.

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Max Pixel

#11. Iowa

Foster care children in 2016: 6,004

Foster care children in 2006: 9,040

10-year percent change: -33.6%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 191.5

There is an exceptionally high number of teens in need of homes in the state of Iowa. Due to a shortage of foster families, many of them are forced to stay in shelters. For more information on how to help, contact Lutheran Services Iowa.

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Good Free Photos

#10. Missouri

Foster care children in 2016: 12,408

Foster care children in 2006: 10,181

10-year percent change: 21.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 203.6

After two decades of declining foster care rates, the numbers in Missouri are quickly on the rise, and like everywhere else, opioid abuse appears to be the driving factor. To volunteer with foster children or help financially, contact Foster Friends.

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Public Domain

#9. Nebraska

Foster care children in 2016: 4,012

Foster care children in 2006: 6,187

10-year percent change: -35.2%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 210.4

In the past, Nebraska removed children from their homes at one of the highest rates in the nation. There has been improvement in the last year, as more families voluntarily seek help from the state, without the need for court involvement. The state, along with the the nonprofit PromiseShip, is working hard to find permanent homes for foster children.

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Mmcardle // Wikicommons

#8. Vermont

Foster care children in 2016: 1,323

Foster care children in 2006: 1,379

10-year percent change: -4.1%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 211.8

Vermont's number of child abuse and neglect cases reached a statewide high in 2017, with the opioid epidemic and lack of safe affordable housing both playing roles in family instability. For more information on how to help, contact AdoptUSkids Vermont.

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Humberto Moreno // Flickr

#7. Arizona

Foster care children in 2016: 17,118

Foster care children in 2006: 9,731

10-year percent change: 75.9%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 247

Arizona is one of the few states to see a steady and drastic rise in the number of children in foster care over the last decade, with a whopping 75% increase between 2006 and 2016. The foster care system is currently in a state of crisis, due to massive budget cuts and economic instability. Arizona Helping Hands is a nonprofit organization providing basic essential needs to boys and girls in foster care in Arizona.

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Pixabay

#6. Kansas

Foster care children in 2016: 7,302

Foster care children in 2006: 6,393

10-year percent change: 14.2%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 251.2

Kansas social workers face an average caseload of 38 children, when the maximum average is supposed to be 15. The good news is the state recently increased the number of foster care contractors from two to five, hoping to take some pressure off of the overwhelmed Kansas Department for Children and Families.

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Kansas Statehouse // Wikimedia commons

#5. Oklahoma

Foster care children in 2016: 10,047

Foster care children in 2006: 11,816

10-year percent change: -15.0%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 256.1

Oklahoma is fighting its high foster care rate with a new program called Parent Partners. The program offers guidance and advocacy for parents whose children are in foster care. The goal is reunification, by pairing parents with a mentor who has successfully navigated the Department of Human Services child welfare process.

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Public Domain Pictures

#4. Indiana

Foster care children in 2016: 19,837

Foster care children in 2006: 11,384

10-year percent change: 74.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 299.1

The need for foster parents in Indiana is at an all-time high, with more than 1,000 children waiting to be placed in foster homes. To help a child in need, contact The Villages, a nonprofit that offers a range of services for families in need of support.

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Ron Reiring // Wikicommons

#3. Montana

Foster care children in 2016: 3,366

Foster care children in 2006: 1,962

10-year percent change: 71.6%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 322.9

Montana has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of children in need over the past decade. The state says that substance abuse is to blame in most of the cases and a recent study revealed that the drug crisis among pregnant women is more pronounced in Montana than in most other states. As a result a $150,000 Montana Healthcare Foundation grant has been provided to offer addiction treatment services for pregnant mothers before, during, and after their due dates.
 

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Dave Sizer // Flickr

#2. West Virginia

Foster care children in 2016: 5,973

Foster care children in 2006: 4,226

10-year percent change: 41.3%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 326.2

The state of West Virginia is currently facing a housing shortage for foster children. The sharp increase in the number of children needing homes is likely due to the rise in drug use. Necco is the best organization to contact for people interested in learning more about foster parenting in the state.

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James McCauley // Flickr

#1. Alaska

Foster care children in 2016: 2,820

Foster care children in 2006: 2,017

10-year percent change: 39.8%

Foster care children per 100,000 people in 2016: 380.1

Topping the list, the number of children in foster care in Alaska is shockingly high. Most of the children come from homes where parents' drinking or drug use has resulted in neglect. About 2,000 Alaska children were in foster care any given month last year, 60% of whom were Alaska natives. Sadly, the number only continues to grow.

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