Foster care by the numbers

Past Issues

Foster care by the numbers


50%Caucasian36%American Indian/Alaskan Native7%More than one ethnicity/undertermined6%Hispanic1%Black

In January 2018, Montana’s Department of Public Heath and Human Services launched the First Years Initiative to reduce child abuse and neglect in Montana. Although Montana’s foster care population only increased 1.4 percent in the first half of 2018, Montana still boasts one of the worst foster care records in the country. “Montana is still the child removal capital of America, tearing apart proportionately more families than any other state,” posted Richard Wexler, former journalist and executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, in response to a 2018 report from Montana DPHHS.

Montana is the third least populous state, but it has the third most children in foster care. Idaho is the seventh least populous state and has the fewest children in foster care.

Between 2008 and 2018, Montana’s population of children under 18 increased less than 3 percent, but Montana’s foster care population increased 250 percent.

Native Americans are 7 percent of  the Montana population, but account for 36 percent of children in foster care.

At least two-thirds of the state’s foster care cases are related to drugs, and most are from methamphetamine.

The number of children in foster care because of parental substance use disorder has doubled since 2010.

Montana’s rate-of-removal per thousand impoverished children, which the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform says is a more accurate measure of a state’s propensity to remove children, was 68.11 in 2017, the highest in the U.S.

From 2010 to 2017, methamphetamine use has increased 415 percent in controlled substance cases.

Approximately 7,200 Montana grandparents had primary responsibility for their grandchildren in 2016.

Heroin has increased 1,234 percent in controlled substance cases from  2010 to 2017.

The number of children living apart from their families in out-of-home care increased by 19.9 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Of the 3,366 children in out-of-home care in 2016, 633, or 18.81 percent, were waiting to be adopted.

There were 260 children legally adopted through a public child welfare agency in Montana in 2016, a decrease of 16.1 percent from 2015.

In Montana, nearly 60 percent of foster homes are placements with relatives.