Foster Care Record Retention State by State

What happens to a child’s story when they leave foster care?

Most believe records from the time in foster care are kept forever and can be accessed by a former foster youth at anytime, if they are curious about their past. This simply isn’t true.

Adoption records are routinely maintained forever, or on a permeant basis, but foster care records are not.

When the “clock” runs out on saving the records, they are expunged, destroyed or cease to be retained by the systems that were responsible for the child’s care.

So, if someone was in foster care from 6-9 years of age, but was not adopted, there may be NO records from their time in care, left for them to request at 18, depending on the laws of the state they live in.

Why is this a problem?

  • Having access to your personal information is a basic human right for all.
  • Most fosters don’t realize there is a “cut off point” to requesting and think they can do it when they are older.
  • The average age of search and request, often falls outside of when records are kept, and so there will be no records there to access when they want to.
  • Continued distinction between those adopted and not adopted. ALL have the right to see their information.

Ideally, there would be…

  • Permanent retention of records for all youth who spend any time in foster care (just as there is for adoptions from foster care)
  • Access that is limited to fosters and descendants (not caseworkers, or future legal proceedings).

How can we change it?

  • Initial understanding of the laws that govern.
  • Fight for record retention law changes, based on best practice and what we know about age of search and request.

Ongoing Survey: If you spend time in care and would like to share your process thus far – we would love to hear from you and you can complete the survey here – https://lnkd.in/ennpAYJt


State by State

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware

Florida – case records be maintained until the youngest alleged victim among the subjects of the record has reached 30 years of age. Adoption records permanent. (Source)

Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho

Illinois – foster care records permanent. Adoption records permanent. (Source)


Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan

Minnesota – 10 years from last entry for those who entered foster care (substantiated child abuse). Adoption records permanent. 260E.35 DATA PRACTICES., Subd. 6.Data retention.

Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

New York – Records provided upon adoption, discharge to his/her own care, and upon request to the adopted former foster child; records of a non-adopted child in foster care are maintained for 30 years after discharge

North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma

Oregon – Founded CPS, Date Case Closed + 30 years, Voluntary placement CPS, Date Case Closed + 75 years. Adoption records permanent. (Source)


Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming


Additional State Info

If your state is not represented above, please add the following in the comments:

  • In your state, how long are foster care records maintained for?
  • A link to the source material for your answer.

If your state IS represented, did I get it right?


IF you appreciated this article, please share with your networks!

Having access to your personal information is a basic human right, however, foster care records are not are kept forever. See the laws that govern retention and destruction. #personalhistory #fosteryouth

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