Originally posted on: PBS.org  by Laura Santhanam and Megan Hickey on Sept. 24, 2015

The amount of time a child in foster care waits to be adopted has dropped dramatically since 2000, an improvement that is no accident, according to child welfare advocates.

About 102,000 children were waiting to be adopted in 2013, the latest year for available data, down more than 20 percent since 2000, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported recently. Kids who must wait three years or more to be adopted also has gone down by more than one-third during that same time.

In 2000, nearly half of all children in foster care waited at least three years to be adopted. Now, 31 percent of these children wait that long, and 56 percent of them wait between 12 and 35 months before they are adopted, according to Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Kim Stevens, an adoptive parent and project director for Advocates for Families First, said several factors led to these positive results. The federal government now monitors children in foster care better than they did, she said, and child welfare workers and agencies share best practices more than they used to. And unlike 13 years ago, there’s a growing movement to involve children and families in foster care to innovate the system and develop new strategies, she said.

While the improvement is welcome, the work is not finished, Stevens stressed. More than half of the children in foster care in some states, such as New York, Illinois and Hawaii, still wait at least three years before they are adopted, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s data. By comparison, Utah produced among the fastest adoption placement figures nationwide. In 2013, Utah found adoptive families for nearly one-third of its foster care children less than a year after those children entered the system.

“We know the longer a kid waits in care, the less likely it is that they’re going to find a permanent family, so it’s important that we do our job quickly and well,” Stevens said.