Youth in Foster Care

Foster care (also known as out-of-home care) is a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live in their current home.

Youth are placed in foster care when a court decides that their current living situation is not safe or there is a risk of maltreatment. Foster care arrangements include nonrelative foster homes, relative foster homes (also known as “kinship care”), group homes, institutions, and pre-adoptive homes.” 

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018), most children were placed in foster care during 2017 due to neglect (62%), parental drug abuse (36%), parental coping problems (14%), physical abuse (12%), and housing issues (10%). Nearly half of children (45%) were placed in non-relative foster homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). 


  • 690,548 children were served by the foster care system during 2017 fiscal year

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau (2018), The AFCARS Report; Preliminary Estimates for FY2017 as of August 10, 2018 (Report No. 25),  Retrieved from

National Trends:

  • 25% Become Homeless After Exiting Foster Care (Source:
  • Only 3% of youth in Foster Care Graduate from College (Source:
  • Almost half (49%) of children and youth in foster care meet criteria for a mental disorder and this prevalence is 4x greater than the general population. Source: Bronsard, G., Alessandrini, M., Fond, G., Loundou, A., Auquier, P., Tordjman, S., & Boyer, L. (2016).
  • The prevalence of mental disorders among children and adolescents in the child welfare system: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 95(7).
  • The average amount of time a child is in foster care is 2 years. Source: (
  • Children experience an average of 3.4 foster home placements and some children change homes over 10 times (Wulczyn, Kogan, & Harden, 2003; Zima et al., 2000). 
  • The child welfare system is less likely to place older children in families. In 2017, 95% of children 12 and under lived in families while just 58% of teenagers did. (Source:

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Lena D. Mallory

Candi Propp Dierenfield