We want to reduce the rate of children and youth in out of home care as part of our efforts to ensure that all Vermonters are healthy and safe and families are safe, nurturing, stable, and supported.
The number of children in out of home care has increased steadily since 2010. Over the past 3 years, there has been a 34% increase in the number of children in DCF custody, bringing the total to nearly 1,400 children. This is the highest number of children in custody in over in a decade, and places Vermont above the national average for children in out of home care. The trend is most startling for children under the age of six, which increased 81%. This rise in the rate of children in out of home care can be partially attributed to substance abuse (particularly opiates) among families with young children. In 2015, substance abuse was a factor in 28% of the reports received by the Child Protection Line.
There is more work to be done to assure child safety and support vulnerable families. It is anticipated that the rate of children and youth in out of home care will continue to rise, based on findings from the 2015 Report on Child Protection in Vermont:
- Calls to DCF’s Child Protection Hotline increased by 4.8%; over 20,000 calls were received. Substance abuse was identified as a contributing factor in 28% of those calls.
- The number of children who were substantiated victims of child abuse decreased from 992 to 945.
July 2014, Family Services has added 36 social workers in district offices. Even with these additional resources, due to rising number of children and families we are serving, caseloads for social workers are still high. At the same time, we must also acknowledge the substantial addition of resources that we have
experienced in the last 2 years. In 2014, we had 141 district office
social workers. Today, we have 177. That is a 25% increase in the
number of social workers in 2 years.