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Dataset Details

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), Adoption File 2021

Dataset Number: 275

Current Data Version: 1


Children's Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services


The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) is a federally mandated data collection system intended to provide case specific information on all children covered by the protections of Title IV-B/E of the Social Security Act (Section 427). Under the final AFCARS’ rule, states are required to collect data on all adopted children who are placed by the state’s child welfare agency or by private agencies under contract with the public child welfare agency. States are encouraged to report other private adoptions not involving the public welfare agency that are finalized in the state as well. In addition, states are required to collect data on all children in foster care for whom the state child welfare agency has responsibility for placement, care, or supervision.

AFCARS was designed to address policy development and program management issues at both the state and federal levels. The data are also useful for researchers interested in analyzing aspects of the United States' foster care and adoption programs. Tables and other reports summarizing the AFCARS data are available from the Children's Bureau Web site (

AFCARS’ reporting periods extend from October 1 to September 30 of the following year. The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect distributes two data files for each fiscal year; one file contains adoption data and the other foster care data. Each adoption data file contains 37 elements that provide information on the adopted child’s gender, race, birth date, ethnicity and prior relationship with the adoptive parents. The date the adoption was finalized, as well as dates parental rights were terminated, characteristics of birth and adoptive parents, and whether the child was placed from within the United States or from another country are also captured. The foster care data files contain 66 elements that provide information on child demographics including gender, birth date, race, and ethnicity. Information about the number of previous stays in foster care, service goals, availability for adoption, dates of removal and discharge, funding sources, and the biological and foster parents is also included in the foster care files.

Bibliographic Citation

Children’s Bureau Administration on Children, Youth and Families. (2021). Adoption and Foster Care Analysis System (AFCARS) Adoption File [Data set]. National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN). Https://

Data Documentation

Publications from this Dataset