Finding Permanent Families

There are four ways children can leave foster care for permanent homes: Reunification with birth parents, adoption, guardianship, and placement with relatives. When young people cannot be safely reunified with their families, child welfare systems must be prepared to move quickly to find them permanent alternative homes, usually through adoption. But far too many are ill-prepared to handle this responsibility — and many who are legally eligible to be adopted , instead languish for years in foster care.

In 2017:

In 2017 more than 222,000 children exited foster care and were reunified with their birth parents, adopted, placed with relatives or placed in a guardianship

In 2017, on average, children spent 20 months in foster care before exiting.

Reunification is the most common outcome for children exiting state care. Almost half the children who left foster care in 2017 were reunified with a parent or primary caretaker.

In addition, of the children who exited foster care in 2017, 24 percent were adopted, 10 percent were discharged to guardianship, and 7 percent were placed permanently with a relative.


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