Change Indicator

Children in foster care by county of removal, 2016 —2023 in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

Why It Is Important
Children thrive when they have stable homes and lifelong family connections. When children experience frequent maltreatment at any point during their childhood, it can have lasting effects. That is why it is important to have a robust child welfare system to support children and families in crisis. The state takes custody of children when due to abuse or neglect, a family is not safely able to care for their children. Custody of the state is meant to be temporary until the parents are able to safely care for their children or until a permanency plan through guardianship or adoption can be made.

What The Data Shows
The number of children in the custody of the state of Maine on December 31,2023 was 2,401 the highest number since 2004, since 2005.  The number of children in foster care has increased each year since 2017. The rate of youth removed from their homes and placed in foster care is more than five times as high in some counties compared to others. In 2023, 7 of Maine's 16 counties had rates above 10 per 1,000 children (or more than 1% of all children.) These counties were: Androscoggin (17.4), Kennebec, (16.6), Somerset, (15.7), Aroostook, (15.6), Knox, (13.5), Hancock, (12.3) and Penobscot, (10.9) Meanwhile, three counties had rates below 3.3 per 1,000 children, including Piscataquis 92.7), Sagadahoc (3.0) and Lincoln (3.3). The disparity between counties is larger than in 2022.
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Definition and Source



The number and rate of children birth to age 17 in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the last day of December of each calendar year. The denominator is the number of children birth to age 17 per the population estimates from the Maine Office of Vital Statistics the year before. The numerator is the number of children in state custody at a point in time the day of the last month of the calendar year. The county is where the child lived before placement into foster care. 


This series is based on where the child was living before being placed into foster care in the custody of Maine Department of Health and Human Services.  These children were ordered into DHHS custody as a result of a child protection hearing where the child is found to be in jeopardy, a juvenile hearing where it would be contrary to the child’s health and welfare to remain in the care or custody of the parents, or a divorce and/or custody hearing where neither parent has been found able to provide a home in the best interest of the child. Note that the Maine total includes any children where their county is not recorded.

Last Updated

January 2024