Foster Parents: Who Are They ?

Updated March 30, 2015

 

This information is based on a report I gathered for a well-known national adoption group. The intent is to define the typical foster parent demographic and then determine which digital and media outlets are best suited for reaching that demographic.

 

This page is made available to all so that anyone who wishes to reach would-be foster and adoptive parents can optimize their efforts by truly understanding the target market. To learn more about social and media outlets to target this group, click here. 

Foster Parents: Who Are They?

  • Target audience is primarily white followed by African-American

  • Most are married (63%), but single females are worth targeting as they make up nearly 30% of foster parents

  • Most are heterosexual as LGBT makes up only 3% of foster parents

  • Many foster parents live in households where there are more children than adults

  • About ¼ of foster parent homes have an adult with a disability (which is greater than compared to the general population)

  • 70% have education beyond high-school

  • Only 31% of foster parents are employed full time

  • They are not poor, but not wealthy either. Foster parents have a mean household income lower than that of the general population with children. The mean income for all households with children ($74,301) is nearly one-third higher (31 percent) than the mean income of households with foster children ($56,364).

  • ¼ of foster parents have household income greater than or equal to 400% of the poverty level, and only 15% have an income lower than 100% of the poverty level. Therefore the majority (~40%) fall within the 200% - 399% of the poverty level rate. 

  • Note that kinship foster care givers appear to skew household income lower when compared to non-kinship foster care givers. 

  • Since most children are adopted by former foster parents, it is best to target adoptive and foster care parents as one in the same

 

Data to Back-up the Conclusions Above

Foster Parents: Race

  • 63% of children adopted from foster care have non-Hispanic white parents.

  • 27% of children adopted from foster care have non-Hispanic black parents

US Department of Health & Human Services

 

Foster Parents: Marital Status

 

Socio-Economic and Demographic Characteristics by Adoption Type

Of those parents who adopt from foster care

  • 11% of parents are greater than or equal to 50 years old

  • 70% have parental education beyond high school

  • Only 25% have a household income greater than or equal to 400% greater than the poverty threshold

  • 31% are employed full-time 

US Department of Health & Human Services

 

Percentage of Adopted Children Whose Parents

Have Other Children

 

From US Dept of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children AFCARS Report; Preliminary FY 2010 Estimates as of June 2011.)

 

From the Annie E Casey Foundation (2008): http://www.aecf.org/m/pdf/FosterChildren-July-2008.pdf

  • Households with foster children are larger than all households with children. A full 50 percent of households with foster children have three or more children, while only 21 percent of all households with children have three or more children.

 

  • One example of the difference in the distribution of household resources is the ratio of adults to children. In almost half (49 percent) of the households with a foster child the ratio of adults to children is less than one. That is, there are more children than adults. Only 24 percent of all households with children have an adult-to-child ratio of less than one. On the other hand, one-fifth of households with foster children have an adult-to-child ratio of two or more, compared to 35 percent of all households with children.

 

  • One other aspect of household composition that differs for households with foster children is disability status. Households with foster children are more likely to be ones where the householder (head of household) or spouse has a disability (any one of six kinds of disability recorded in the ACS). About a quarter (24 percent) of households with foster children had a householder or spouse with a disability compared to less than one-sixth (14 percent) of all households with children. It is also important to recognize that foster children are much more likely than other children to be suffering from a disability themselves.

 

  • Even though households with foster children are larger than all households with children, the income in households with foster children is significantly lower than the average income in all households with children. The mean income for all households with children ($74,301) is nearly one-third higher (31 percent) than the mean income of households with foster children ($56,364).

 

  • The relatively low income of households with foster children is also seen in the distribution of households across income categories. Households with foster children are much more likely to be in the lowest income category (less than $20,000 a year) and much less likely to be in the highest income category ($100,000 or more a year). There are 15 percent of households with foster children in the less than $20,000 a year category compared to only 13 percent of all households with children. Households with foster children (11 percent) are only half as likely as all households with children (22 percent) to be in the highest income category ($100,000 or more).

 

  • Households with foster children are no more likely than all households with children to have incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line, both are at 15 percent. However, households with foster children are slightly more likely than all households with children to be below 200 percent of the poverty line. Poverty status of the householder was used to ascertain the poverty status of children in the household. It is important to recognize that when families are recruited to become foster families, sufficient income is one criterion. So it should not be a surprise that few are poor.

 

  • The lower average income of households with foster children can be traced to lower educational attainment and less involvement in the paid labor force. The data on educational attainment and employment of adults in households with foster children is shown in Table 9. The education levels of householders and spouses in households with foster children are lower than those for all households with children. In terms of householders, a fifth (20 percent) of those in households with foster children lack a high school degree compared to 14 percent for all households with children. At the other end of the education spectrum, more than a quarter (28 percent) of all householders with children have a four-year college degree compared to only 20 percent of householders with foster children. The situation is similar for spouses.

 

  • Householders and spouses in households with foster children are less likely to be employed compared to all households with children. Householders in households with foster children are 50 percent more likely as those in all households with children to have gone without work in the previous year (20 percent compared to 13 percent). While 60 percent of householders in all households with children worked full time in the previous year, only 56 percent of householders in households with foster children worked full time in the previous year. (Full time is defined here as 35+ hours per week at least 50 weeks a year.) In all fairness, it should be pointed out that a disproportionately large share of children in foster care are children with disabilities and may require an degree of care that prohibits foster parents from working outside the home

 

  • On the other hand, there is evidence to support the idea that the largest group of foster children included in the Census – those in non-kinship family foster care – are better off than those in kinship foster care – the second largest group of children in foster care. One report found, “50 percent of children in kinship live in low-income households compared with 24 percent of children living with non-kin foster parents.”

 

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