Children in foster care by county of removal, 2016 —2022 in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

Why It Is Important
Children thrive when they have stable homes and lifelong family connections. When children experience frequent maltreatment at any point during their childhood, it can have lasting effects. That is why it is important to have a robust child welfare system to support children and families in crisis. The state takes custody of children when due to abuse or neglect, a family is not safely able to care for their children. Custody of the state is meant to be temporary until the parents are able to safely care for their children or until a permanency plan through guardianship or adoption can be made.

What The Data Shows
The number of children in the custody of the state of Maine on December 31,2022 was 2,320 exactly 100 more than the previous year, and 775 more children than in 2017 and the highest number in state custody since 2005.  The rate of youth removed from their homes and placed in foster care is more than four times as high in some counties compared to others. In 2022, 7 of Maine's 16 counties had rates above 10 per 1,000 children (or more than 1% of all children.) These counties were: Knox, (17.6), Androscoggin, (16.7), Somerset, (15.5), Aroostook, (15.2), Kennebec, (13.7), Hancock, (12.0) and Penobscot, (11.1) Meanwhile, two counties had rates below 5.0 per 1,000 children, including Waldo (4.0) and Lincoln (4.8).
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Definitions: The number and rate of children ages 0-­17 in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the last day of December of each calendar year. The denominator is the number of children ages 0 -17 per the population estimates from the Maine Office of Vital Statistics the year before. The numerator is the number of children in state custody at a point in time the day of the last month of the calendar year. The county is where the child lived before placement into foster care. 
The number and rate of children ages 0-­17 in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the last day of December of each calendar year. The denominator is the number of children ages 0 -17 per the latest population estimates from the Maine Office of Vital Statistics the year before. The numerator is the number of children in state custody at a point in time the day of the last month of the calendar year. The county is where the child lived before placement into foster care.  Note that the Maine total includes any children where their county is not recorded. These children were ordered into DHHS custody as a result of a child protection hearing where the child is found to be in jeopardy, a juvenile hearing where it would be contrary to the child’s health and welfare to remain in the care or custody of the parents, or a divorce and/or custody hearing where neither parent has been found able to provide a home in the best interest of the child. 

Footnotes: This series is based on where the child was living before being placed into foster care in the custody of Maine Department of Health and Human Services. It includes children who entered foster care or remained in foster care on the last day of December.
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Updated January 2023.