As of December 31, 2015, a total of 7,168 Wisconsin children were exposed to abuse, neglect and/or adverse experiences and placed in out-of-home care. Out-of-home care (OHC) increased for the third consecutive year, after a steady decrease from 2007-2012.
The figure to the right shows the number of children in OHC on December 31, 2015. Compared to 2014, the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services (DMCPS) had about the same number of children in OHC. The Balance of State, which represents the other 71 counties, had an increase of 6%. Nationally, the opioid epidemic is driving the increase in the number of children being taken out of their homes and placed in the foster care system.
As shown in the figure to the left, the two largest age groups in OHC are children 2-4, which accounts for 20% of all children in OHC, and children aged 14-16, which account for 17.3% of all children in OHC.
Males make up slightly more than half, 53.3%, of the OHC population as of December 31, 2015. The greatest difference between genders is in the age range of 14-16 years, where there are 178 more males than females.
Caucasian children account for 54.4% of children in OHC; African American children account for 35.5%; Native American account for 7.3%, and Asian account for 1.2%.
Child Removal Reasons
There are a number of reasons why a child may be removed from their home. Neglect, defined as alleged maltreatment including failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or care, is the most prevalent reason for removal, accounting for 64.1% of the reasons a child was removed from their home.
The above table shows the number and percentage of children for each removal. Because a child may have more than one reason for removal, the count of reasons is higher than the actual count of children removed in 2015.
Discharge Reasons for Children Leaving OHC Care
A child's discharge from OHC is defined as the end of a placement with no subsequent placements by the agency or the court. This means the child welfare agency is no longer responsible for the child's physical custody. A total of 4,869 children were discharged from OHC statewide in 2015.
Reunification, returning to their families or the home from which they were removed, accounted for the majority, 64.4%, of discharges in 2015.
Adoptions were finalized for 655 children, representing 13% of the total discharges.
Age of Majority, or "aging out of the system", accounted for 297 cases. In Wisconsin, foster care eligibility ends at age 18 or 19, depending on whether the youth is expected to graduate high school prior to age 19, unless the youth has an Individualized Education Program (IEP).