Too many children are trapped in foster care.
On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.
During the last year about 650,000 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 2011 (13.5 months). On average, children in the American child welfare systems spend about two years — 23.9 months — in foster care. Ten 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.
- Nearly half of all children in foster care have chronic medical problems.
- About half of children under five years old in foster care have developmental delays.
- Up to 80 percent of all children in foster care have serious emotional problems.
More than 60,000 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 (23.6 months).
In 2011, 11 percent of the children (over 26,000) 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.
Sixteen percent of children in foster care in 2011 were in foster care for three or more years before they were emancipated.
- Learn about the role of child welfare systems in providing care and services for children in state custody.
- Find out how Children’s Rights improves failing foster care system through our child welfare reform campaigns and policy advocacy.