The state of the Nation’s Foster Care System: Part One

We thought it was important for our followers to understand the state of the nation’s foster care system. We compiled a list of statistics that will be broken up into a two part series. Part one of the series will focus on the foster system itself. Part two will focus on common demographic characteristics of the children within the foster care system itself.

It’s important to note that these foster care statistics are the most current based on fiscal year 2016 (October 1 through September 30) and provided by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). This organization collects information on all children in foster care for whom the state child welfare agencies have responsibility for placement, care, or supervision. They also collect information on all children who are adopted with public child welfare agency involvement. Some of these findings reflect a comparison of the fiscal years 2006 & 2016. These numbers give a broad picture of the number of children in foster care during FY 2016 within the whole United States.

Children In, Entering, and Exiting Care

  • Point in time: On September 30, 2016, there were an estimated 437,465 children in foster care. * Entries: During 2016, 273,539 children entered foster care.
  • Exits: During 2016, 250,248 children exited foster care.
  • Trends: The number of children in foster care on September 30, 2016, (437,465) remains lower than those in care on the same day in 2006 (510,000). However, FY 2016 saw an increase in these numbers as compared to FY 2015 (427,444).

Outcomes The outcome statistics for children leaving foster care largely reflect the percentages for the permanency goals, especially for reunification and adoption.

Exits: Of the estimated 250,248 children who exited foster care during FY 2016:

  • 51 percent were reunited with parent(s) or primary caretaker(s).
  • 23 percent were adopted.
  • 8 percent were emancipated.
  • 10 percent went to live with a guardian.
  • 7 percent went to live with another relative.
  • 2 percent had other outcomes.

Length of Stay Length of stay in foster care refers to the amount of time between entering and exiting foster care.

Exits. Of the estimated 250,248 children who exited foster care during FY 2016, the median amount of time spent in care was 13.9 months.

The following are the lengths of time in care:

  • 10 percent in care less than 1 month
  • 35 percent in care for 1 to 11 months
  • 28 percent in care for 12 to 23 months
  • 15 percent in care for 24 to 35 months
  • 9 percent in care for 3 to 4 years
  • 4 percent in care for 5 or more years