Someone noted – Foster Care causes 61% of All Child Abuse in America. So I went looking and found this, at The Annie E Casey Foundation – LINK>Child Welfare and Foster Care Statistics. KIDS COUNT is a robust source of the best available data on child well-being in the nation. This includes state-by-state data on child abuse and neglect and children living in out-of-home care from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, and the National Youth in Transition Database. These data help our Foundation and leaders across the country to monitor trends, assess the child welfare system, and advance policies and practices to improve outcomes for children, youth and families — particularly for children of color who are overrepresented in the system and more likely to experience negative outcomes.
KIDS COUNT offers more than 60 measures of child welfare, encompassing how many children and youth are in the system, the rates at which they enter it, their demographic characteristics (including race and ethnicity when available) and their experiences in foster care, exiting care, being adopted when applicable, aging out of the system and more. In addition to child welfare statistics at the national and state levels, KIDS COUNT also provides data by territory, when possible. Policymakers, child welfare agencies and others have used these data for decades to understand how well the system is meeting the needs of vulnerable children, youth and families, and how it can be strengthened so that all abused and neglected children can heal and grow up with safe, stable families.
Children and youth who experience trauma, including abuse or neglect, are at increased risk for long-term emotional, behavioral and physical health problems, among other challenges. The data measures high-risk behavior, such as juvenile justice system involvement and substance abuse, difficulties with mental health, physical health and academic performance. The consequences of child maltreatment can be mitigated with equitable access to trauma-informed services and nurturing, lasting family relationships and support.
Foster care is meant to provide safe, temporary living arrangements and support services for children who have been removed from their families due to maltreatment, lack of safety or inadequate care. The rate of children entering foster care has hovered at 3 or 4 per 1,000 for two decades. Kids ages 1 to 5 make up the largest share (29% in 2021) of children entering care. National data also show that Black and American Indian and Alaska Native children continue to be overrepresented among those entering foster care. The reasons for this are complex, and efforts to improve racial equity in child welfare have been underway for many years.
In encouraging news, placements with relatives increased from 25% to 35% during 2000–2021, while placements in group homes or other facilities were cut in half, from 18% to 9%. Fewer children are placed in pre-adoptive homes (4% in 2021) or have trial home visits (5%), and some older youth live independently with supervision (2%). Over a third of foster children and youth experience more than two placements each year, meaning their living arrangements change at least three times a year. Child welfare agencies are working to minimize these moves, as they are disruptive, stressful and often traumatizing. Stable relationships and home environments are critical for healthy child and youth development.
Of the more than 54,000 kids adopted out of the child welfare system in 2021, over half were young kids ages 1 to 5, consistent with previous years. Most of these adoptions are by the foster parents (either relatives or non-relatives), who cared for the children while in foster care. Unfortunately, the median amount of time in foster care has increased over the last decade — from 13.2 months in 2011 to 17.5 months in 2021, based on children who exited care in each year. However, the percentage of kids who spent 5+ years in care declined slightly from 7% to 5% in the same time period. Among children who exited foster care in 2021, about a third (35%) were there less than a year, while nearly half (48%) spent 1 to 3 years in care and 12% stayed in foster care 3+ years.
More than 19,000 youth left foster care in 2021 without reuniting with their parents or having another permanent family home. Thankfully, this figure has declined since peaking at nearly 30,000 in 2008. The transition to adulthood is a significant and challenging developmental phase of life for all young people, but youth aging out of foster care on their own must face this without the support of a stable, loving family. Many also lose access to services and supports that were offered to them through the foster care system. Not surprisingly, these youth and young adults are more likely to experience behavioral, mental and physical health issues, housing problems and homelessness, employment and academic difficulties, early parenthood, incarceration and other potentially lifelong adversities. In line with the racial inequities noted earlier, youth of color are more likely to experience these challenges. The trajectories of these young people are not unavoidable. They can be positively influenced by policies and practices that ensure these vulnerable youths receive culturally-responsive, trauma-informed transition services and support to navigate the steps to adulthood, achieve stability and reach their full potential.