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 2016:

More than 233,000 children exited foster care and were reunified with their birth parents, adopted, placed with relatives or placed in a guardianship.

On average, children spent 19 months in foster care before exiting.

Reunification is the most common outcome for children exiting state care. More than half of the children who left foster care in 2016 were reunified with a parent or primary caretaker.

In addition, of the children who exited foster care, 23 percent were adopted, 10 percent were discharged to guardianship, and 7 percent were placed permanently with a relative.

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