Aging Out

When children cannot return home to their families, child welfare systems must move quickly to find them alternative homes. As time goes by, the prospects for landing in safe, loving, permanent homes grow dimmer for foster youth. Many will simply “age out” of the system when they turn 18, without a family and without the skills to make it on their own.

In 2012, more than 23,000 young people— whom states failed to reunite with their families or place in permanent homes — aged out of foster care, simply because they were too old to remain.

Of the 397,000 children in foster care, more than 20,000 had case goals of emancipation, or aging out after leaving foster care without a permanent family.

The percentage of youth that age out of foster care increased, from 8 percent in 2003, to 10 percent in 2012.

Youth who age out of foster care are less likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, approximately 80 percent of young people who aged out of foster care earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94 percent in the general population.

By age 26, 4 percent of youth who aged out of foster care had earned a 4-year college degree, while 36 percent of youth in the general population had done so.