A Look At Foster Care

mother child foster care adoption parent CBS/AP

What is foster care?
Foster family care is temporary care for children who are unable to remain in their own homes and are placed in the custody of the county children and youth agency by the courts. Foster parents are individuals who are committed to providing a safe, temporary home for children who have been abused and neglected and are unable to remain living in their own homes.


How many children are in foster care?
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, over 500,000 children in the U.S. currently reside in some form of foster care as of last year. Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people "age out" of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old. The average age of a foster child is 10.



How long do children stay in foster care?
There is no set length for a foster placement. It depends on the circumstances of the child and his/her birth family. But for the children in foster care on September 30, 2004, the average amount of time they had been in the system was 30 months. 29 percent of children leaving care in 2004 had been away from home for a year or longer. 53 percent of the young people leaving the system were reunified with their birth parents or primary caregivers.


What are some of the challenges kids in foster care face?
Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child. Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. About 30 percent of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


To learn more about foster care:
• After a year-long study, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care recently issued a set of prescriptions for reform designed to prevent unnecessary placements and to speed the movement of children out of foster care. You can read more about them here.

• For more information about foster care from the National Foster Parent Association.

• Click here to read some statistics about foster care from the Administration for Children and Families.

Casey Family Programs' mission is to provide and improve — and ultimately to eliminate the need for — foster care by providing direct services and promoting advances in child-welfare practice and policy.

  • Melissa McNamara

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