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Facts About Foster Care

Too many children are trapped in foster care.

On any given day, there are approximately 397,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.

During the last year about 640,000 children spent some time in out-of-home care in the United States.

Children entering foster care remain there on average for nearly two years.

Despite the common perception that most children in foster care are young children, the average age of the children in foster care is over nine years old.

The median amount of time children spent in foster care increased between 2000 (12 months) and 2012 (13.1 months). On average, children in the American child welfare systems spend about two years — 22.7 months — in foster care. Nine percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.

While most children in foster care live in family settings, a substantial minority — 15 percent — live in institutions and group homes.

More than 58,000 children living in foster care have had their biological parental rights permanently terminated. The assumption is that once parental rights have been terminated, the State should work as rapidly as possible to ensure that the child is safely in a new adoptive home and that the adoption is finalized. Yet of these children, the average time they’ve been waiting to be adopted is nearly two years (22.2 months).

In 2012, 10 percent of the children (over 23,000) exiting foster care aged out of the system. Research has shown that teens aging out of the system are highly likely as adults to experience homelessness, poor health, unemployment, incarceration, and other poor outcomes.

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