Facts About Foster Care


In the U.S. 442,995 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system (as of September 30, 2017). 123,437 of these children are eligible for adoption. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 25


Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of kids in care is 9. Source: Childrensrights.org 


Three years is the average length of time a child in foster care waits to be adopted. Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally. [Source: AFCARS Report, No. 20]

In 2017, 44% of children in foster care were white, 23% were African American and 21% were Hispanic. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 25

In 2016, more than 17,000 young people — whom states failed to reunite with their families or place in permanent homes — aged out of foster care, simply because they were too old to remain. Source: Children's Rights

In 2016, of the 428,000 children in foster care, more than 22,000 had case goals of emancipation, or aging out after leaving foster care without a permanent family. Source: Children's Rights

Youth who age out of foster care are less likely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, approximately 80 percent of young people who aged out of foster care earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94 percent in the general population. Source: Children's Rights

By age 26, 4 percent of youth who aged out of foster care had earned a 4-year college degree, while 36 percent of youth in the general population had done so. Source: Children's Rights


Foster children are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking. Given their need for love, protection and their often impaired development of social boundaries, foster care children make easier targets for sex traffickers. According to California Against Slavery (CAS):

  • In 2012, studies estimate that between 50-80% of commercially sexually exploited children in California are or were formally involved with the child welfare system

  • 58% of 72 sexually trafficked girls in Los Angeles County’s STARS Court in 2012 were foster care kids

  • The most common age for children in the sex trade is 11-13 years for boys and 12-14 years for girls

Source: California Against Slavery (CAS) Research & Education

Children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care, according to a meta-analysis of 75 studies (more than 3,800 children in 19 countries). Source: Leiden University Study

No child under three years of age should be placed in institutional care without a parent or primary caregiver, according to research from 32 European countries, including nine in-depth country studies, which considered the “risk of harm in terms of attachment disorder, developmental delay and neural atrophy in the developing brain." Source: Childcentre.info (Executive Summary)