Even as the number of children in foster care continues to shrink, agencies still struggle to find permanent homes for the kids that can't ever go back to living with family members.

In September 2011, there were 104,236 children waiting to be adopted nationwide, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. That number represented approximately 30,000 less than in 2007.

In the District alone there are about 100 children -- out of the roughly 1,400 children in foster care -- who are waiting for adoptive families to come forward,

About 100 children a year exit foster care in the District through adoptions, a number the agency hopes to continue to increase.

"Now that the number of children in foster care has dropped in half, we can place children where they really ought to be ?-- with families," said Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells.

Once children enter the D.C. foster system, about 40 percent are eventually reunited to their family members. Many others are adopted. However, about 120 children a year age out of the foster care system in the District, leaving them without adopted parents to turn to later in life.

Brenda Donald, head of the District's Child and Family Services Agency, said she is committed to working to reduce that number. "Everybody deserves a permanent family," she said.

Based on a 2011 report, a quarter of children in the Washington area waiting to be adopted were between 1 and 5 years old, 17 percent were between 6 and 10, 34 percent were between 11 and 15, and 23 percent were 16 and older.

As of the end of 2011, just under 70 percent of the children waiting to be adopted in the region were black; 12 percent were white.

Altogether in 2011, 74 percent of children in foster care in the region were either reunified with family, placed under guardianship or adopted.

- Eric P. Newcomer