Foster Care Statistics

One of the great needs and opportunities in our country today is the care of over a half a million foster children. These kids have been removed from their homes when their families are in crisis and can’t take care of them (these families are in great help as well). These kids are in need of temporary families and in most States and counties there are not enough families to care for them.

To put things into perspective, one website states if things don’t change and we don’t find more families for these children then:

By the year 2020:

  • 22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday^
  • More than 10.5 million children will spend some time in foster care^^
  • More than 300,000 children will age out of our foster care system, some in poor health and many unprepared for success in higher education, technical college or the workforce^^^
  • 75,000 former foster youth, who aged out of the system, will experience homelessness^^^^

Here are the latest statistics from the Federal AFCARS data (2006)

Who are the children waiting in the U.S. foster care system?

  • 510,000 children in foster care nationally
  • 32% of foster children are between the ages of 0 and 5
  • 28% of foster children are between the ages of 6 and 12
  • 40% of foster children are between the ages of 13 and 21
  • Average # of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2 birthdays (28 months)
  • Average # of placements children experience: 3
  • 17% (88,475) of children live in group care or institutional settings

What are United States’ foster children waiting for?

  • 248,054 (49%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families
  • 127,000 (25%) are waiting to be adopted
  • Average time foster care children have been waiting to be adopted: 39.4 months

Where did the United States’ children go after leaving foster care in 2006?

  • 287,691 children exited foster care
  • 152,152 (53%) were returned to their parents
  • 49,741 (17%) were adopted
  • 45,761 (16%) left to live with relatives (some through guardianships)
  • 26,181 (9%) “aged out” or left the system at age of 18 or older
  • 12,086 (4%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)
  • 2,349 (1%) left for unknown reasons

Find statistics for your state here.

Child Welfare Statistics

The Child Welfare League of America has created the National Data Analysis System (NDAS), which is the most comprehensive collection of child welfare data available. The data contained in the NDAS illustrate the wide variation in the states’ collection of information regarding child welfare issues. View the data

Transitioning from Care

Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, the future of these young adults is tragic:

  • Earned a high school diploma         54%
  • Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher     2%
  • Became a parent                 84%
  • Were unemployed                 51%
  • Had no health insurance             30%
  • Had been homeless                 25%
  • Were receiving public assistance         30%
Sources^ In 2004, there were about 1,500 confirmed victims from abuse or neglect. See U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2006). Child Maltreatment 2004. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


^^14 Calculated by multiplying the number of children served in foster care in 2005 by 15, the number of years until 2020. This fi gure was derived by subtracting the number of children who re-entered care (about 100,000) from the number of children served by the foster care system in 2005 (about 800,000). See Child Welfare Outcomes 2003: Annual Report. Downloaded on January 3, 2007 from And The AFCARS report: Interim FY 2003 Estimates as of June 2006 (10).Downloaded on

January 3, 2007 from

^^^U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2006). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2005 estimates as of September 2006. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Downloaded November 30, 2006 from (Go to and click on “Adoption and Foster Care Statistics.”)

^^^^About 25% of youth who were placed in foster care experience one of more days of homelessness after leaving care. This statistic was derived by averaging the results of a representative set of foster care alumni studies that interviewed older alumni. The studies were then weighted by study sample size so the larger studies carried more weight inthe average (Casey Research Services)

8 thoughts on “Foster Care Statistics

  1. We need to demand that social services let these children in foster care be adopted across state lines. I have tried for the past 20 years to get kids out of the foster care system. As an adoption profession it is near impossible. I have probably only seen a few adoptions over the past 20 years where a child in foster care gets adopted out of State. I have families come to me seeking to adopt a child in another state. We as their adoption agency fax their homestudy time and time again. I have been told by local DSS that they wish to wait until a family in the child’s own state is found. These children will never be adopted if our foster care system is not changed. It is easier to adopt a child in another county than to get some children out of the DSS foster care system. The problem is not only individual state laws for adoption but individual County DSS regulations that can often prevent a child from being placed outside the child’s county of residence. I have watched the US Foster Care system for the past 25 years and I have seen little change. Someone needs to change the system so the children in foster care can have a forever home!

    • Mary – thank you for bringing attention to this! I agree. Please keep me posted on what can be done. So many folks feel like the system is too big to change and not worth any effort on our part. Jason

    • I don’t know how many children age out in Tampa, FL. The best place to check is the Tampa county children’s services. Blessings!

  2. Pingback: Foster Care & Orphans « John Carroll's BLOG

  3. Pingback: Foster Care & Orphans «

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