29 Surprising Foster Care Facts

When it comes to the foster care system, a lot of myths and falsehoods prevail. In particular, we’ve found that many people still think that Resource Parents (aka foster parents) only do it for the money and that foster youth are irrevocably damaged. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth! The Resource Parents we work with provide tremendous love and support, and we’ve seen many former foster youth go on to graduate college and rise above their traumas and struggles.

To help you get the real picture on the state of foster care today, consider these stats:

  1. The average age of a foster youth is 8 and a half years old.¹
  2. A foster youth typically spends just under two years – 20 months – in foster care.
  3. Over 25,600 foster youth spend more than five years in foster care.
  4. More than 1,200 youth are placed in foster care nationwide because of their own alcohol dependence problems.
  5. Over half of all foster youth are reunited with their family or primary caregiver when they exit the system.
  6. 6 percent of all children in the U.S. will find themselves in the foster care system before they turn 18.²
  7. Foster youth are seven times more likely than non-foster youth to have Depression, and five times more likely to have Anxiety.
  8. There were 10 percent more youth in foster care nationwide in 2016 than there were in 2012.³
  9. One out of every five people who age out of the foster care system lack a home when they turn 18.4
  10. By the time foster youth are 24, only half of them will have stable and steady employment. The same percentage develop substance abuse.
  11. Among former foster youth, one-third of all males and three-fourths of all females rely on government assistance programs.
  12. In comparison to veterans, former foster youth are twice as likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.5
  13. Close to 56,000 children are foster youth in California.6
  14. Just under four out of every 10 – 38 percent, to be precise – foster youth in California will never find a permanent housing placement.
  15. Close to 19,000 former California foster youth are presently enrolled in MediCal.
  16. One out of every two foster youth has dealt with four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences.
  17. Eight out of every 10 foster youth enter the system with notable mental health needs.
  18. Just over half – 51 percent – of all foster youth graduate high school.
  19. Just one out of every five foster youth is at grade level in English and language arts in third grade, and only 9 percent are at grade level in math in eighth grade.
  20. Less than one in four foster youth enroll in college.
  21. By age 26, just 4 percent of former foster youth had successfully obtained a bachelor’s degree.7
  22. 54 percent of all former foster youth who are adopted have parents over the age of 50, and 16 percent have parents that are 60 or older.8
  23. 70 percent of children adopted out of foster care have married adoptive parents, and 55 percent of them did not know their adoptive parents beforehand.
  24. Among former foster youth who are later adopted, 37 percent are white, 35 percent are black and 16 percent are Hispanic. Among these adoptive parents, 63 percent are white, 27 percent are black and 5 percent are Hispanic.
  25. As for their reasons for adopting foster youth, 86 percent did so to provide a permanent home for a child, 39 percent did so because of infertility and 24 percent did so because they wanted their child to have a sibling.
  26. 60 percent of parents adopted a foster child instead of an infant because it was cheaper.
  27. 95 percent of parents who adopt foster youth said they would make the same decision again.
  28. Around 184,000 households in the U.S. have a foster youth in them.9
  29. Compared to their peers, male former foster youth are four times as likely to commit a crime. Females are 10 times more likely.

Interested in even more stats? Check out our infographic!

The Current State of Foster Care

The Current State of Foster Care



1: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport24.pdf

2: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20161118

3: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/05/02/this-new-federal-law-will-change-foster-care-as-we-know-it

4: https://www.nfyi.org/51-useful-aging-out-of-foster-care-statistics-social-race-media/

5: http://foster-care-newsletter.com/haunted-by-the-past-foster-children-with-ptsd/#.W6F4mc5KjX4

6: https://www.childrennow.org/files/7715/1613/3234/Children_Now_2018_Report_Card.pdf

7: http://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/aging-out/

8: https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/children-adopted-foster-care-child-and-family-characteristics-adoption-motivation-and-well-being#_Toc300125443

9: https://www.fosterclub.com/blog/statistics-and-research/current-state-foster-care

Alternative Family Services

Alternative Family Services (AFS) provides thoughtful, informed foster care, adoption and mental health services throughout California’s San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region. Since 1978, the mission of AFS has been – and continues to be – to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety and well-being in communities through foster care, adoption and mental health services.

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