Number of US Children in Foster Care Up Sharply

For the first time in a decade, there was a notable increase last year in the number of U.S. children in foster care, according to new federal figures released Wednesday.

The annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services tallied 415,129 children in the foster care system as of September 30, 2014, up from about 401,000 a year earlier. The peak was 524,000 children in foster care in 2002, and the number had dropped steadily since 2005 before rising slightly in 2013.

The long-term drop resulted primarily from shifts in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many shortened stays in foster care, expedited adoptions and expanded preventive support for troubled families so more children avoided being removed from home in the first place.

HHS offered no immediate explanation of why the numbers had risen.