May is National Foster Care Month
For 31 days each year, the nation’s attention shifts to focus on the stories of children and families whose lives have been affected by foster care.
The pivot is intentional — and dates back to 1988 when President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation establishing May as National Foster Care Month. Today, this precedent endures. It recognizes the needs of kids and youth in foster care and celebrates the many supporters who are making a powerful and positive difference in their lives.
This May, in honor of National Foster Care Month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is sharing select facts about foster care in America. The latest research tells us that:
- More than 407,000 children and youth are in foster care on any given day.
- Most kids in care — 65% — enter the system due to neglect.
- Young kids under age 6 are the largest group in care (41%), while children 6 to 10 and 11 to 15 each make up 22% and older youth 16 to 20 comprise 14%. Most states allow young adults to remain in foster care a few years beyond 18.
- Children spend, on average, 21 months in care.
- Kids in care are predominantly white (43%), Black (23%) and Latino (22%). However, Black and American Indian children continue to be overrepresented in foster care as compared to their proportion of the general child population.
- More than 117,000 children and youth are waiting to be adopted.
- One-third of kids in care are placed with relatives, which can help with stability and reduce trauma, while nearly half (45%) of kids are placed with nonrelative foster families. Kids generally do better in family settings compared with group homes and institutions.
- More than half — 54% — of kids in care are seeking to reunite with their birth parents or primary caretakers, according to their care plan goals.
- However, about 20,000 young adults “age out” of foster care each year without reuniting with their families or obtaining another permanent family. These young people face increased risks of hardships such as homelessness, unemployment, and mental and behavioral health problems.
- Former foster children are almost twice as likely as combat veterans to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
For hundreds of Americans, the focus on foster care does not fade after the month of May. To help support three groups who navigate the system every day — kids in care, foster parents and child welfare professionals — the Annie E. Casey Foundation funds programs and research, tracks data, advocates for effective policies and compiles key resources.
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