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Aging Out
Foster Care FAQ
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Q: WHAT IS FOSTER CARE?

Foster care is defined as "24-hour substitute care for children outside their own homes. The foster care settings include, but are not limited to family foster homes, relative foster homes (whether payments are being made or not), group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions, and pre-adoptive homes." -- Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 45, Volume 4, Part 1355, Section 57



Q: HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE IN FOSTER CARE?

A: There are more than half a million children, ages ranging from birth to 18, in the U.S. foster care system. The largest number of these children is in foster family homes with non-relatives while a smaller percentage is placed in foster homes of relatives, group homes, institutions and other sorts of placement. The children are of all races and ethnic origins and there is a roughly equal percentage of male and females. The average age of foster children is 10.2 years.

Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO MOST CHILDREN WHO ENTER FOSTER CARE?

A: A large number of children are put into foster care with the ultimate goal of reuniting them with their parents once the situation is improved. Others are put into care with the long-term of goal of adoption or of transferring custody to a relative or guardian. A much smaller number of children are put into foster care as a permanent solution. Children can remain in care for months or years -- the average stay is almost three years.

Q: CAN CHILDREN SEE THEIR PARENTS OR SIBLINGS WHILE IN CARE?

A: Because the first goal is always to reunite children with their parents if possible, they are allowed to see their parents when it in their best interests to do so. Likewise, siblings visits are also permitted and children are placed with brothers and sisters, if feasible and wise.

Q: WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PROSPECTS OF YOUTH WHO AGE OUT OF THE FOSTER SYSTEM?

A: Youths leaving the system -- typically at age 18 -- face daunting obstacles and many are not well-equipped to manage the transition on their own. Studies of these youths four years after leaving foster care show that fewer than half of emancipated foster youth have graduated from high school, compared to 85 percent of all 18-to-24-year-olds. Fewer than one in eight has graduated from a four-year college. Almost two-thirds have not maintained employment for a year and fewer than one in five is completely self-supporting. More than a quarter of the males have spent time in jail and four of 10 have become parents.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

David Griffin
Risa Bejarano
Daniella Anderson