Black Children Continue to Be Disproportionately Represented in Foster Care

Updated on May 14, 2023, and originally posted April 13, 2020, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Update blackchildrencontinuetobedisproportionately 2020

The share of chil­dren who are Black and in fos­ter care is the low­est it has been in two decades. Even so, Black chil­dren are still over­rep­re­sent­ed among youth in fos­ter care rel­a­tive to the gen­er­al child population.

In 2021, Black chil­dren rep­re­sent­ed 14% of the total child pop­u­la­tion but 22% of all kids in fos­ter care.

By com­par­i­son: White kids rep­re­sent 49% of the nation’s child pop­u­la­tion and only 43% of its fos­ter care pop­u­la­tion. Lati­no or His­pan­ic chil­dren rep­re­sent 26% of kids nation­wide, yet 22% of all kids in fos­ter care. And Asian Amer­i­can and Native Hawaiian/​Pacific Islander kids make up near­ly 5.5% of the U.S. child pop­u­la­tion but only 1% of its fos­ter care pop­u­la­tion. In oth­er words, these three groups are under-rep­re­sent­ed in fos­ter care when com­pared to their pres­ence in the total child population.

Like Black chil­dren, Amer­i­can Indi­an and Alas­ka Native kids are also over­rep­re­sent­ed in fos­ter care, mak­ing up 2% of those in care and 1% of the child population. 

Over the last five years, the data on kids in fos­ter care, bro­ken down by race and eth­nic­i­ty, has remained fair­ly steady. White chil­dren make up more than two in five kids in care (43%), while Black and His­pan­ic or Lati­no kids each com­prise more than one in five (both 22%). Mul­tira­cial chil­dren make up 8% of those in care, and Amer­i­can Indian/​Alaska Native and Asian Amer­i­can or Native Hawaiian/​Pacific Islander kids rep­re­sent small­er shares, at 2% and 1%, respec­tive­ly. These fig­ures come from Child Trends, which ana­lyzed data from the Adop­tion and Fos­ter Care Analy­sis and Report­ing System.

This sta­tis­ti­cal sta­sis masks, to a degree, a longer-term trend: the share of Black chil­dren in care has been on the decline for two decades, steadi­ly drop­ping from 39% in 2000 before sta­bi­liz­ing at 23% in 2016 and then falling one more per­cent­age point in 2021. Dur­ing this same time peri­od, the per­cent­age of white kids in care rose from 38% to 43%, and the share of Lati­no or His­pan­ic kids rose from 15% to 22%.

These fig­ures only cov­er chil­dren in the U.S. fos­ter care sys­tem — that is, boys and girls ages 0 to 17. Most states extend some lev­el of fos­ter care ben­e­fits to young adults, who are not includ­ed in this update.

Clos­er looks at the total fos­ter care pop­u­la­tion nation­al­ly and in the states and of fos­ter care chil­dren by age group and gen­der can also be found here on the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter. See also how the over­all pop­u­la­tion of chil­dren in the U.S. has shift­ed, with new data from the 2020 census.

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