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, 2021), most children were placed in foster care during 2021 due to neglect (63%), parental drug abuse (38%), parental coping problems (14%), physical abuse (12%), and housing issues (9%). Nearly half of children (44%) were placed in non-relative foster homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021). 


  • 606,031 children were served by the foster care system during 2020 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 (2021), The AFCARS Report; Preliminary Estimates for FY2021 as of June 28,2022 (Report No. 29),  Retrieved from


National Trends:

    •  70% will be on government assistance 
    •  50% will be unemployed.
    •  50% will experience homelessness.
    •  25% will not have completed high school.
    •  Less than 12% will ever earn their college degree. 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).
    • On average, children remain in state care for over a year and a half, and five percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
    • The prevalence of mental disorders among children and adolescents in the child welfare system: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 95(7).
    • 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. 

      After four years of aging out of the foster care system:

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Lena D. Mallory

Candi Propp Dierenfield

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