New federal figures show that the number of U.S. children in foster care rose slightly last year after dropping for seven straight years.
The annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services tallied 402,378 children in the foster care system as of September 30, 2013, up from about 397,000 a year earlier, but still down dramatically from a decade earlier. The peak number was 524,000 children in foster care in 2002, and the number had dropped steadily since 2005.
The long-term drop resulted primarily from a shift in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many shortened stays in foster care, expedited adoptions and expanded preventive support for troubled families so more children avoided being removed from home in the first place.