National Foster Care Month 2020: 8 in 10 Children in Care Are Placed With Families

Posted May 13, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Update fostercaremonth 2022

In recog­ni­tion of Nation­al Fos­ter Care Month, the KIDS COUNT® Data Cen­ter is announc­ing 26 new­ly updat­ed indi­ca­tors on the more than 407,000 chil­dren and youth in fos­ter care. These mea­sures describe chil­dren enter­ing fos­ter care, their demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics, where they lived while in care, why they left fos­ter care and more.

One such mea­sure shows that the nation is mak­ing progress on a crit­i­cal issue: An increas­ing share of fos­ter chil­dren — about 8 in 10 in 2020 — are being placed with fam­i­lies, par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­a­tives, and few­er are being placed in group homes or insti­tu­tions. But much more work is need­ed to ensure that every fos­ter child, youth and young adult lives with a fam­i­ly, when possible.

Keep­ing Fos­ter Chil­dren in Families

Increas­ing­ly, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, researchers and oth­er experts agree that when chil­dren must be removed from their homes and placed into fos­ter care, they are more like­ly to thrive if placed with fam­i­lies — ide­al­ly with rel­a­tives or close friends who can pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity with a child’s school, com­mu­ni­ty and cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty, or with non­rel­a­tive fos­ter families—rather than in group homes or insti­tu­tions. While short-term place­ments in group set­tings are some­times need­ed to address spe­cif­ic needs, these can add to the trau­ma that fos­ter chil­dren already have expe­ri­enced and may not pro­vide the indi­vid­u­al­ized care and nur­tur­ing that chil­dren need.

Accord­ing to the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, over the last decade, the per­cent­age of U.S. fos­ter chil­dren placed with rel­a­tives or close friends (known as kin­ship care) increased from 27% in 2011 to 34% in 2020, while the share placed with non­rel­a­tive fos­ter fam­i­lies held rel­a­tive­ly steady around 45%. In encour­ag­ing news, place­ments in group homes or insti­tu­tions declined from 14% to 10% dur­ing this peri­od, fol­low­ing nation­al and state efforts to reduce these placements.

The vast major­i­ty of states have made progress, too, in the last 10 years, with an increas­ing share of fos­ter chil­dren being placed with fam­i­lies, espe­cial­ly rel­a­tives, instead of group settings.

The Trou­bling News

While the above find­ings reflect mean­ing­ful progress, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2019 report, Keep­ing Kids in Fam­i­lies, described con­cern­ing trends that progress in plac­ing fos­ter chil­dren with fam­i­lies has been slow­er for youth ages 13 and old­er com­pared with younger kids and for chil­dren of col­or ver­sus white kids. The report found that Black chil­dren were least like­ly to be placed with fam­i­lies. A 2021 study com­mis­sioned by the Foun­da­tion echoed sim­i­lar find­ings for Black fos­ter children.

Being part of a fam­i­ly is essen­tial to every child’s well-being, as they need sta­ble, car­ing rela­tion­ships to sup­port their healthy devel­op­ment and help them nav­i­gate the crit­i­cal tran­si­tions through ado­les­cence and young adult­hood. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for fos­ter chil­dren who need extra care and sup­port as they heal from the trau­ma of sep­a­ra­tion from their fam­i­lies, in addi­tion to abuse or neglect they may have experienced.

Nation­al Fos­ter Care Month is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to acknowl­edge areas of progress for America’s fos­ter chil­dren, as well as the wide array of stake­hold­ers who have con­tributed to these improve­ments. It is also a time to take stock of the work that remains to be done, includ­ing reduc­ing unnec­es­sary place­ments of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in non-fam­i­ly set­tings, espe­cial­ly for chil­dren of col­or and old­er youth.

Learn More and Stay Connected

See all fos­ter care and child wel­fare data in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter and access the Foundation’s numer­ous resources on this top­ic, includ­ing these select­ed examples:

Sign up for our newslet­ters to get the lat­est data, reports and oth­er resources.

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