The Basic Foster Care Facts!

A few people have written stating I don’t know the “true” story about foster care and I should study it more. They also state basically the system is doing well though they do have problems that arise from time to time and one of their problems is a lack of funding.

Well I will lets the basic fact about foster care speak for themselves!!

Basic Foster Care Facts: 

There are more than 523,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system, a 90% increase since 1987. 53% are male and 47% female. The average age of a child entering foster care is 10 while 40,000 infants enter the system each year.

The U.S. spends $22 billion dollars ($5 billion from the Federal government and the balance from state/county governments) to provide services for children and youth in foster care. This averages out to $40,000 per child.

120,000 children and youth a year have had TPR (terminate parental rights) occur and are eligible for adoption but continue to remain in the system due to lack of adoptive families

The average stay in the foster care system is 33 months. However, 33% will spend 3-5 yrs in the system while 26% will spend 5 yrs or more.

* Children have on average three different foster care placements. The longer a child or youth remains in foster care the more moves. Frequent moves in and out of the homes of strangers as well as new schools can be profoundly unsettling for children, and it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20 or 30 different homes or 5 to 7 new schools. Many have been separated not only from their parents, but from their siblings.

* Children in foster care are three to six times more likely than children not in care to have emotional, behavioral and developmental problems, including conduct disorders, depression, difficulties in school and impaired social relationships. Some experts estimate that about 30% of the children in care have marked or severe emotional problems. Various studies have indicated that children and young people in foster care tend to have limited education and job skills, perform poorly in school compared to children who are not in foster care, lag behind in their education by at least one year, and have lower educational attainment than the general population.

* Children died as a result of abuse in foster care 5.25 times more often than children in the general population. 2.1 percent of all child fatalities took place in foster care. While this may seem like a relatively low number, we must consider the contrast in population between children in the general population versus children in foster care. In 1997, there were nearly 71 million children in the general population (99.6%), but only 302 thousand in state care (.4%) in state care. As state care is supposed to be a ‘safe haven’, the number of fatalities should be less or at least equal to what it is in the general population of children. By this standard, there should have been less than .4% of child fatalities occurring in foster care, however, there was 5.25 times that amount. (31 states reporting)
*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support
There are a total of 170,000 licensed foster care homes in the U.S. Numbers are not currently available for children or youth placed in group homes, residential treatment centers or other institutional care.

In addition to the 523,000 children and youth in foster care there are another 2.4 million children and youth being cared for by grandparents or other relatives known as kinship care.

20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system. Age out occurs at age 18.

The following are the results of a study conducted in 2004 with young adults ages 18-24 and 2.5-4 years after aging out of the system:

33% will experience homelessness 12-18 months after leaving foster care. Three of ten of the nation’s homeless are former foster children
27% of the males and 10% of the females had been incarcerated (80 percent of prison inmates have been through the foster care system) National Association of Social Workers
33% were receiving public assistance
37% had not finished high school
10% obtain at least one year of college
2% obtain a Bachelor’s degree or higher
51% were unemployed
84% became a parent
40% experience alcohol or drug abuse
37% have some type of mental disorder due to experiences within the foster care system
30% have no health insurance
Former foster youth have a higher rate of suicide than the regular youth population

*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support
The highest ranking federal official in charge of foster care, Wade Horn of the Department of Health and Human Services, is a former child psychologist who says the foster care system is a giant mess and should just be blown up. He’s most critical of the way foster care gets funded by the government — billions that goes mostly, he says, to keeping kids in foster care. There are little or no provisions for treatment, prevention, family support, or aging out — just for supporting things as they are. He wants to rethink foster care on a national level.

This sure does not sound like a story of success of the foster care system!

I’ll continue my series Child Welfare Reform over the weekend. (my web site telling my story)


14 Responses

  1. I have several web pages that I keep on angelfire and a My Space account.

    I too was given up by my Mother for adoption and never adopted. I wasn’t moved around as much as you were but when I entered my teens I was moved out of the home I was in with my brother and moved twice more. I was a chronic runaway and spent time in Mc Clarin Hall in LA because of it. By 16 was on the streets and they no longer cared. I had a child at 17 and was married by 18.

    My brother also ran away at 15 but was put in a work camp as they didn’t have a foster home that would take him. He eventually ran from there and has been on his own since he was 17. He was married with a child by 18 and went into the Army as soon as they would take him. I think it saved his life.

    I truly wonder how many kids actually “age out” of the system. I believe that a large number leave the system as teens and are just ignored as they have no place to put them anyway.

    My life has been one of long term abuse, homelessness, unemployment and mental illness. At 48 I feel successful because I have finally stopped having the panic attacks, auditory and visual hallucinations and the severe reoccurring suicidal depression that has plagued me most of my life. I am finally holding down a “normal” job and feeling like a “normal” person. I am still poverty strickened, but feel comforitable in my own skin at last.

    I too have been trying to find a way to change the foster care system. What state are you in? I have some ideas. I also think that you’re motivated in many of the same ways that I am to do something. I would love it if we can put our heads together and really change the way things are being done.

    I spent the last two years trying to work within the system to do it and it has led me to believe that any real and lasting change must be in the hearts and minds of the public. As long as they don’t see the harm this system does it will never change. That is the reason for my My space page. I am thrilled to have found your page to add to my resource list as well.

    Keep writing. You’re very effective.


  2. Shannon~

    Thank you for your positive comments and for sharing a portion of your personal story, we have a lot in common from our expereicnes as does your brother.

    The system as we know it failed all 3 of us as well as many thousands over the years and we as a society are paying the price for it.

    Also I read your page about James…I could see, hear and feel your pain.

    Feel free to drop me a line and we will attempt to put our heads together…if you have not read my 4 part series on Child Welfare System Reform you may wish to as it not only looks at the problems within the system but offers some solutions from my perspective as well.


  3. Hello everyone
    I was also a foster child who aged out of the system. I entered the system at age 5. Thanks to God I was placed in a home at age 8 and I was there until I graduated from Highschool. I had a foster mother who really loved children. I recieved a basketball scholoarship and was able to go to college but I was cut off from the system as soon as I turned 18. No insurance, no assistant, nothing. I began to think about my brothers and other foster children across the world what were they to do? I want to help!

  4. Dear Larry:
    My heart goes out to you. I see foster kids everyday, and it breaks my heart what they have gone through. I deal with teens through my ministry.
    If you go to our website that is under construction, but if you go to, you will get a feel for what I am trying to do. It is still rough and won’t be finished for about two weeks, but the guts are there. Perhaps you may have suggestions for me? We re trying to build a home where foster teens can come and it is really home for them, a place where they don’t age out and move on. They can go to college! A place that will always be called their home. A place where they can heal. Unconditional love is what it is gonna take. We are willing. we have several people that work with the county and CPS and DPSS that are truly on our side and want to see things better for foster kids. The problem is so huge. I can’t save the world, but I can take as many as I can and we can try to make that difference in their lives. I wasn’t a foster kid, but I was on the streets when I was 16 so I understand most things teens feel in your former situations.

    With your permission, I would like to use your stories in my presentation when I am working on funding so people know the real story. I have had people say to me, “I appreciate what you are trying to do, but is the problem really that bad? Is there really a problem?” They just don’t realize it unless it is right in their faces.

    Larry, I love your article and the stats are invaluable to me.

    Hang in there! God is good despite our circumstances. People care, people want to help once they realize there is such a huge issue.

    I am truly sorry for the abuse and neglect you have gone through in your lifetime and the consequences you have suffered out of situations you had absolutely no control over. When you were little, and you were young, you had no choices. Now, you are older. I am encouraged that you are wanting to be the difference for other youth. Keep fighting. Every single one of them is worth your fight. Every single one of them is valuable beyond measure. God bless you! I look forward to talking with you again.

  5. I wanted your permission to put your article on our website… it is truly enlightening and needs to be heard. Also, I would like to place a link to your site at our site. Would that be alright?

  6. I am in foster care right now i ve been in foster care since i was 14 and i am about to be 18 and i have been in over 50 foster homes it is really hard and because of my parents i couldnt see them because all they cared about was drugs and alcohol so ihavent seen them since i was 14 and now that i am about to be 18 all of a sudden they start to call me but all they want is for when i turn 18 to move in with one of them so when i work they can take my money and it hurts alot i have had to go to theripist all my life cuz what they put me throught if you all knew half the crap i have been throught you would see you dont have it bad at all but i dont want any one to feel sorry for me cuz what i been throught has made me stronger person thank you for reading this thanks alishia west

  7. Hey, I’m an honors social work student at Arkansas State University, and I’m writing my thesis on Foster Care. I was wondering if you could tell me where you found all those statistics that you have listed in your document. I would very much like to use stats like that in my thesis, but I would need to be able to reference a scholarly source. Thanks for your help.

  8. I am also doing my thesis on Foster Care. Are all of these facts from the Casey Family Programs?

  9. As a teen, I think that foster care is not what some troubled kids need. Foster care is not the answer to most situations. Courts threaten kids/teens everyday about jail, or being taken out of their home. Honestly I don’t think being taken away from their parents is the answer.

  10. foster mom of 8 children-sib group Dss wants to return to bio mom who abused & turned her head to her daughters being raped for years…till 13 was discovered pregnant w/fathers child. Mom seen as non offender, but she beat them and let father do his thing…illegal, bad parent. BUT she has the right to have kids back to heal. ???We can’t hire lawyer to tpr. no money for that. dss says no case….giving mom a pass…kids testimony to gal is not enough,,,no bruises or cuts as time they told…were removed already. Is there any chance – they can stay in our safe, loving home

  11. You have to go through it yourself to understand it!

  12. I am an aged out foster kid, 21 years old. I have been homeless since about 19, i’ve got a few friends. I had been in foster care since age 6, and lived in 90 something homes between 6 and 18, including group homes. I struggle everyday wheather or not to just end my life. I don’t see or feel a reason to continue. I recently decided to look up statistics for former foster children, and am disgusted by it. I have a highschool diploma, a year of college and no hope. I was kicked out at 18 with nothing, barely any clothes no money and no job. Is there something i can do? My story sucks and i’m tired of telling it. I live ohio, but moved here from north carolina.

  13. I formed a support group for former foster children called FACT (Fostered Adult Children Together) and thought you all would like to know about it. I am writing a book to help promote it, with stories in it. I spent time in foster care as a child and seen a need for this. If any of you want to share a story, or even an excerpt in my book, you can contact me at:

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