2018 Snapshot of Kids in Foster Care

Posted April 13, 2020
Update agegendercharacteristicsofpopulation 2020

The age and gen­der dis­tri­b­u­tions of kids in the U.S. fos­ter care sys­tem have not changed much over the years, and the lat­est data on these two char­ac­ter­is­tics deliv­er no surprises.

Fos­ter care sys­tem pop­u­la­tion by gender

Nation­wide in 2018, 52% of youth in the fos­ter care sys­tem were males and 48% were females, accord­ing to Child Trends, which ana­lyzed data from the Adop­tion and Fos­ter Care Analy­sis and Report­ing Sys­tem. This same gen­der split has pre­vailed for all but one year since 2003.

In 43 states across the nation, the gen­der divide is such that males rep­re­sent no less than 47% of the fos­ter care pop­u­la­tion and females rep­re­sent no more than 52%. Out­liers include fos­ter care sys­tems in sev­en states and Puer­to Rico. These excep­tions are Col­orado (59% male and 41% females — the largest gen­der gap in the nation); Ten­nessee (56% males and 44% females); and New Hamp­shire, New Mex­i­co, Utah, Vir­ginia, Wyoming and Puer­to Rico (54% males and 46% females).

Many states extend fos­ter care ben­e­fits beyond a young person’s 18th birth­day, and this analy­sis cov­ers youth of all ages in care.

The KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter fea­tures new data on chil­dren in fos­ter care by gen­der for each state.

Fos­ter care sys­tem age distribution

Data on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of kids in fos­ter care by age also held steady. In both 2017 and 2018, 7% of youth in fos­ter care were less than one year old; 35% were 1 to 5 years old; 23% were 6 to 10; 21% were 11 to 15; and 14% were 16 to 20 years old. The analy­sis includ­ed youth up to age 20.

At the state lev­el, using 2018 data: Kids in fos­ter care between the ages of 16 and 20 have the great­est range of vari­a­tion in their rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This age group swings by 21 per­cent­age points — from a low of 5% in Maine and Okla­homa to a high of 26% in Col­orado. Babies younger than one have the small­est range of vari­a­tion in their rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the state lev­el. Their range is 5 per­cent­age points wide, from a low of 5% in Kansas, Nebras­ka, New Hamp­shire, New Mex­i­co and Ver­mont to a high of 10% in Maine and Oklahoma.

Detailed reviews of the total fos­ter care pop­u­la­tion nation­al­ly and in the states and of fos­ter care chil­dren by race and eth­nic­i­ty are also available.

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