What Proportion of Foster Care Children Do Not Have Child Protective Services Reports? A Preliminary Look

Brett Drake, John D. Fluke, Hyunil Kim, Rebecca Orsi, Jessica L. Stubblefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is perhaps surprising that we lack complete national information about why children enter foster care. While the annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) report is informative, it leaves many questions unanswered, particularly “how many children enter foster care by means other than Child Protective Services (CPS) reports?” Drawing from a unique new integrated dataset, we examined foster care data (AFCARS) and CPS report data (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File). The linked dataset included 210,062 children with foster care placements in 2017 and no placements in the prior 5 years. We categorized each placed child along two dimensions of four levels each: Time since prior CPS report (if any) and stated AFCARS placement reason, ranging from clearly maltreated to clearly not maltreated. We also tracked the siblings of placed children, to see if non-maltreated children entered care because of maltreated siblings. We find that between 8–35% of children enter foster care for reasons other than maltreatment, depending how thresholds are set. These numbers decline somewhat when siblings are considered. A meaningfully large number of children are placed in foster care for reasons other than maltreatment investigated by CPS. Further research into these children is warranted to better inform foster care policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-604
Number of pages9
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • child maltreatment
  • child protective services
  • epidemiology
  • foster children
  • measure development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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