Failure to Protect
homelogan marrcaseworker fileschild policydiscussion

foster care statistics
It wasn't until the mid-1990s that the federal government set up the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and started collecting data from states about the children in their foster care systems. We now know, for instance, that the largest portion of children in foster care are those aged 11 to 15 years, and that boys slightly outnumber girls. Following is a sample of other stats and facts generated by AFCARS and other national databases and resources.

»Overview

  • Total number of reports to child protective agencies in 2000: 2.8 million

  • Percentage of those reports that met the standards for an investigation and/or assessment: 62 percent, or 1.7 million cases

  • Number of substantiated cases of abuse/neglect in 2000: Approximately 500,000

  • Number of children placed in foster care in 2000: 291,000

»Life in the System

  • Total number of children in foster care in 2000: 556,000

  • Average length of stay in foster care for those in the system in 2000: 33 months; the median is 20 months

  • Percentage of children in foster care on Sept. 30, 1998, who had been placed in five or more homes: 16 percent

»Demographic Profile of Children in Care

POVERTY:

According to estimates from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, more than 50 percent of the children in foster care in 1999 were given federal foster care assistance, which is tied to eligibility for welfare benefits. "The number of children in federally assisted foster care has grown significantly in the years since funding first became available under AFDC in the early 1960s," the committee said in its 2000 Green Book.

RACE OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE (2000):

Percentage of total population in foster care

Total

American Indian/Alaskan Native

2.0%

10,994

Black

39.7%

220,660

Asian/Pacific Islander

1.1%

5,978

Hispanic

14.7%

81,890

Other

5.0%

27,846

White

37.5%

208,632

»Outcomes for Children in Foster Care (2000):

  • Children in foster care whose parents' parental rights were terminated: 75,000

  • Number of children adopted from foster care: 51,000

  • Reasons children exited foster care

Reunification w/parent or caretaker

57%

Living with other relative

10%

Adoption

17%

Emancipation

7%

Guardianship

4%

Transfer to another agency

3%

Runaway

2%

»An Uncertain Legacy:

According to a survey of foster care alumni conducted by Casey Family Programs, 13 percent reported being homeless at least once since being discharged. Further, fully 15 percent of the alumni reported being arrested since leaving foster care. "When the system fails, the children are very likely to move out of the system into the juvenile justice system, into the welfare system, into the adult criminal justice system," says Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work and one of the authors of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act.

»Sources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Child Maltreatment 2000 (2002); AFCARS, interim FY2000 estimates as of August 2002; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Child Welfare Outcomes 1999: Annual Report (2002); U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, Green Book 2000; Casey Family Programs, "Assessing Foster Care Alumni Outcomes: A Short-Term Follow Up Study."

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