Many children are placed in foster care because they were abused, neglected, or abandoned by their families. Some children wait alone in foster care, while others wait with siblings. The average age of a child in foster care is 8, but children range from infants to teenagers. Virtually every race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic category is represented.
While in foster care, these children may live temporarily with extended family members, with a foster family, or in a group home. Meanwhile, social workers help their birth families. If a family’s problems can’t be resolved, the agency with custody of the child goes to court and legally terminates parental rights. From that point on, social workers try to find a safe and loving adoptive family for the child.
Many Children in Foster Care Face Adversity
In the U.S. 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 20
In 2012, 23,396 youth aged out of the U.S. foster care system without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. Nearly 40% had been homeless or couch surfed, nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and only 48% were employed. 75% of women and 33% of men receive government benefits to meet basic needs. 50% of all youth who aged out were involved in substance use and 17% of the females were pregnant. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 20, Jim Casey Youth
Nearly 25% of youth aging out of foster care did not have a high school diploma or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care. One study shows 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college. Source: Midwest Evaluation of Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth
As of 2012, more than 58,000 children in the U.S. foster care system were in institutions or group homes, not in traditional foster homes. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 20
States spent a mere 1.2%–1.3% of available federal funds on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal. Source: Adoption Advocate No. 6: Parent Recruitment and Training: A Crucial, Neglected Child
Three years is the average length of time a child in foster care waits to be adopted. Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally. Source AFCARS Report, No. 20