25
Feb
09

More Facts About Foster Care

MORE FACTS ABOUT FOSTER CARE

The number of children in foster care has decreased gradually over the past 10 years, but there are still 510,000 children — of every age, race, ethnicity and culture — currently living in foster care across the U.S. Foster care provides an important safety net for children and youth who experience neglect or abuse. These vulnerable young people need stable, loving care until they can safely reunite with their families or establish another lifelong relationship.

The National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC), through its broad-based membership of dedicated organizations, caring professionals and others, is an important resource for information and research on the nation’s foster care system and the children, youth and families who are most impacted by it.

Length of Stay: Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution, but on average children remained in the foster care system for more than two years (28.6 months) in 2006, the most recent year for which information is available. During that time, children experienced an average of three different placements, moves that often meant disrupting routines, changing schools, and moving away from brothers and sisters, extended family and everything that is familiar.

Age: Foster care affects children and youth of all ages. In 2006, 32 percent of children in foster care were under the age of five; 28 percent were ages six to 12; and 40 percent were between 13 and 21 years of age.

Race and Ethnicity: Although child neglect and abuse occur at about the same rate in all racial/ethnic groups, the percentage of children of color in foster care is higher than that of the general U.S. population. Research indicates that children of color are also likely to stay in foster care for longer periods of time and are less likely to return home or be adopted.

Permanence: In 2006, about half (49 percent) of all children in foster care were waiting to be reunited with their birth families; 127,000 children (25 percent) were eligible to be adopted. However, these children and youth waited, on average, more than three years (39.4 months) to join permanent adoptive families.

Aging Out: Despite the overall reduction in the number of children in foster care, the number of youth “aging out” of the system because their age made them ineligible for services increased to an all-time high of over 26,000 in 2006. Many of these young people, ill-prepared for adulthood and lacking a safety net to fall back on in times of need, struggled with housing, food and education.

Education: Education is a significant factor in determining the success of youth as they exit the foster care system and beyond. However, a 2005 study by Casey Family Programs found that 23 percent of youth who aged out of foster care did not have a high school diploma or GED, and only 1.8 percent completed college, compared to 22.5 percent in the general population.

Prevention: Many children could have the safety and permanence they need if there were an array of supports available to help keep families safely together and reduce the need for foster care. Yet, the majority of dedicated federal funding for child welfare is currently reserved for placing and maintaining children in foster care and cannot be used for prevention or reunification services or supports.

Provided by the National Foster Care Coalition.

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