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Statistics of Children in Care

National trends of children in care

Over the last decade, the U.S. foster care population has undergone a substantial reduction in size and experienced a shift in its racial and ethnic composition. Using data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, Data Brief 2013-1: Recent Demographic Trends in Foster Care September 13, 2013, summarizes those changes and provides new detail that identifies the geographic areas most responsible for these national trends.(

Demographic Trends

Total Population in Foster Care

The number of children in foster care on the last day of the federal fiscal year declined by almost a quarter (23.7%) between 2002 and 2012, from 523,616 to 399,546.

State and County Patterns

Patterns are more diverse at the state and local levels, with a relatively small number of geographic areas appearing to drive national trends. While the majority of states did show some level of decline in the size of their foster care population between 2002 and 2012, 10 states accounted for over 90 percent of the total decline, and three states (California, New York and Florida), accounted for over 50 percent (see Figure 2). About a quarter of states showed some increase during this period, with relatively large increases in Texas (8,294) and Arizona (7,296).

Drilling down to the county level, a very small number of counties accounted for a large proportion of the national decline. With over 3,000 counties or county equivalents in the U.S., just 10 counties accounted for one half of the national decline between 2002 and 2012. Those counties are:

Los Angeles County, CA

New York County, NY

Cook County, IN

Baltimore City, MD

Wayne County, MI

Cuyahoga County, OH

Milwaukee County, WI

Philadelphia County, PA

Sacramento County, CA

Miami-Dade County, FL

Aging out

More than 23,000 youth were discharged to emancipation in the U.S. during federal fiscal year 2012. About 1000 youth per year age out of care in Pennsylvania.

  • Between 25-40% of foster care youth become homeless after discharge from care.
  • Fewer than half of emancipated foster youth have graduated from high school, compared to 85% of all 18-to-24-year-olds.
  • Fewer than one in eight has graduated from a four-year college.
  • Almost two-thirds have not maintained employment for a year and fewer than one in five is completely self-supporting.
  • More than a quarter of the males have spent time in jail and four of 10 have become parents.
  • Only 46% of the former youth had a savings or checking account compared to nearly 82% of their same age-peers.