Vermont's families are safe, nurturing, stable, and supported and 6 more...less...

Vermont's families are safe, nurturing, stable and supported

Vermont families are safe, stable, nurturing, and supported


Vermont families are safe, stable, nurturing, and supported



Rate of children and youth in out-of-home care per 1,000 children and youth

10.7per 1,0002017

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Notes on Methodology

Out of home care includes foster care, kinship care, treatment foster care, and residential and group care. A judge may order a child be taken into the custody of the Department for Children and Families (DCF) if the child has been abused or neglected; is beyond or without parental control; or has been adjudicated delinquent.

Data source: National Adoptions and Foster Care Reporting System (AFCARS).

Last updated: September 2017

Updated by: Department for Children and Families

Story Behind the Curve

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.
  • Since 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.


Child abuse and neglect in Vermont is a population-level problem. While the Agency of Human Services (AHS) and its Departments are responsible for intervening in, and working to reduce the rate of child abuse and neglect in Vermont, AHS recognizes that preventing abuse and neglect is something many other partners contribute to.

In the AHS strategic planning process for reviewing our strategic plan population-level results and indicators, each of the partners below was identified as having a contributing role to play in improving this population-level indicator for the state of Vermont.

  • Vermonters
  • Vermont families
  • Communities
  • Agency of Human Services
    • Department for Children and Families
      • Protective Services Child Care
      • Children’s Integrated Services
      • Disability Determination (for SSI determinations for children in custody)
      • Family Services Division
      • Family Supportive Housing
      • Medicaid
      • Reach Up
      • Strengthening Families Demonstration Project
      • Strengthening Families Child Care
      • Vermont Rental Subsidy
    • Integrated Family Services
    • Department of Mental Health
    • Vermont Department of Health
    • Agency of Education
    • Casey Family Programs
    • Designated Agencies
    • Educators and other school personnel
    • Health Care Professionals
    • KIN-KAN
    • Local law enforcement and Special Investigation Units
    • Mandated reporters
    • Parent Child Centers
    • Prevent Child Abuse Vermont
    • Project Family with Lund
    • UVM Child Welfare Training Partnership
    • Vermont Judiciary, attorneys, and other court personnel
    • VFAFA
    • VT Kin as Parents
    • VT-FACTS
  • What Works

    Strengthening Families™ is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. It is based on engaging families, programs and communities in building five protective factors:

    • Increase parental resilience
    • Strengthen social connections
    • Improve knowledge of parenting and child development
    • Provide concrete support in times of need
    • Promote social and emotional competence of children

    Child abuse prevention initiatives across the Department for Children and Families and the Agency of Human Services draw on this evidence-informed approach.


    The deaths of Dezirae Sheldon and Peighton Geraw in 2014 caused the entire child protection system to question what could have been done to prevent these tragedies. Vermont’s Child Protection System has undergone an unprecedented number of reviews and inquiries in an attempt to answer this question.

    DCF has implemented significant improvements based on reviews conducted by Casey Family Programs and the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board. DCF also sought feedback from its staff, community partners, and the public to develop a plan to improve our policies and support our workforce. Changes implemented by DCF include:

    • Increased staffing capacity in the districts and in the DCF Central Office, with support from AHS, the Governor’s Office and Legislature;
    • Contracted with community partners to provide the services of six substance abuse specialists who will help social workers with investigations in which substance abuse is alleged to be a contributing factor to child abuse or neglect;
    • Renewed the emphasis on child safety in the Family Services Division mission;
    • Implemented new policies requiring management consultation in cases of serious physical abuse;
    • Held a statewide conference in March 2015 for staff and partners focusing on the needs of young children and how to improve our focus on the safety and wellbeing of these young children;
    • Updated training on child safety and risk assessment in partnership with Casey Family Programs and the Children’s Research Center;
    • Introduced a comprehensive coaching program to support continual skill development for staff;
    • Implemented a qualitative case review system to help inform our progress on achieving outcomes for children and families; and
    • Improved the DCF website to provide better information to the public about FSD policies and practices.

    Act 60 went into effect on July 1, 2015. This legislation makes several key changes possible:

    • Information sharing among professionals across the child protection system
    • Closer collaboration between DCF and Vermont’s Special Investigation Units
    • Adoption of a mandatory six-month supervisory period for children reunified to a home in which they were abused or neglected
    • Creation of a Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee

    For more information about ongoing efforts to strengthen Vermont's child protection system, please click here.

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