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- Definition: Percentage of first entries into foster care for children under age 18, by removal reason (e.g., 8.0% of children entering foster care for the first time in California in 2012-2014 were removed from their families due to physical abuse).
- Data Source: Webster, D., et al. California Child Welfare Indicators Project Reports, UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research (May 2015).
- Footnote: First entries into foster care are unduplicated counts of children under the supervision of county welfare departments and exclude cases under the supervision of county probation departments, out-of-state agencies, state adoptions district offices, and Indian child welfare departments. Counts are based on the first out-of-home placement of eight days or more, even if it was not the first actual placement. 'Other' includes removals due to exploitation, child’s disability or handicap, and other reasons. LNE (Low Number Event) refers to data that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 80 total first entries. The sum of all reasons for removal percentages may not add up to 100% due to missing values.
- Measures of Foster Care on Kidsdata.org
Foster care is measured in several different ways, with each indicator illustrating a different aspect of this complex system. Rate of first entries into foster care reflects the incidence of children who are removed from unsafe home environments. Number of children in care provides a snapshot of actual children in foster care at a point in time. Placement distance describes the availability of local foster homes; it generally is preferable to place foster children close to home. Placement stability is important, as it is traumatic for children to be moved from one living situation to another. Median number of months in foster care gives an indication of how much time children are spending in foster care. Length of time to adoption describes how quickly the child welfare system is able to secure a permanent, safe home for a child who cannot return to his or her family of origin. And exit status after one year in care, and after four years in care, give a picture of what happens to children after being in foster care for each amount of time, while re-entries into care reflect repeated maltreatment.
- Foster Care
- First Entries into Foster Care
- Number of Children in Foster Care
- Length of Time from Foster Care to Adoption
- Median Number of Months in Foster Care
- Placement Distances from Home
- Placement Stability, by Number of Placements
- Re-entries into Foster Care
- Exit Status After One Year in Foster Care
- Exit Status After Four Years in Foster Care
- Births to Unmarried Women (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Public School Enrollment
- Total Population
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Disconnected Youth
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Why This Topic Is Important
Foster care is intended to provide temporary, safe living arrangements and therapeutic services for children who cannot remain safely at home due to child maltreatment or for children whose parents are unable to provide adequate care. The U.S. foster care system aims to safely reunify children with their parents or secure another permanent home, e.g., through adoption. However, too often this goal is not achieved (1, 2). Instead, many children spend years in foster homes or group homes, often moving multiple times (1, 3). These children are at increased risk for a variety of emotional, physical, behavioral, and academic problems (3). Recognizing these issues, advocates and policymakers have made efforts to safely reduce the number of children living in foster care. While the number of children in care has decreased substantially in the U.S. and California over the previous decade, California continues to have the largest number of children entering the system (4, 5).
Nationally, about 10% of foster youth "age out" of the system (instead of being reunified with their families or adopted), and services often end abruptly (2, 6). Many states, including California, now extend services past age 18 up to 21. While the Affordable Care Act ensures that health coverage continues until age 26, “aging out” of the foster care system can create many challenges for youth (2, 6). A high percentage of these youth experience inadequate housing, low educational and career attainment, early parenthood, substance abuse, physical and mental health problems, and involvement with the criminal justice system (3, 6). Much work is under way to help ensure that these vulnerable youth have the support, skills, and resources to successfully transition to adulthood (2, 6).For more information about foster care, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. (2014). Child welfare outcomes 2009–2012: Report to Congress. Retrieved from: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/cwo-09-12
2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Enhancing permanency for youth in out-of-home care. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/focus/enhancing
3. Child Trends Databank. (2014). Foster care. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=foster-care
4. As cited on kidsdata.org, Number of children in foster care. (2015). UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research and Child Trends.
5. KIDS COUNT Data Center. (2015). Children entering foster care. Retrieved from: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6269-children-entering-foster-care?loc=1&loct=2#ranking/2/any/true/36/any/13036
6. Russ, E., & Fryar, G. (2014). Creating access to opportunities for youth in transition from foster care. American Youth Policy Forum. Retrieved from: http://www.aypf.org/resources/creating-access-to-opportunities-for-youth-in-transition-from-foster-care-2
- How Children Are Faring
In 2014, 62,097 children and youth in California were living in foster care. After hitting lows in 2010 and 2011, the rate of first entries into foster care has increased slightly in recent years, from 2.6 per 1,000 children and youth in 2011 to 2.8 in 2014. At the county level, rates of first entries into foster care ranged widely, from 0.9 to 20.5 per 1,000 in 2014, among counties with available data. In California, 84% of children who entered foster care for the first time in 2012-14 were removed from their families due to neglect, 8% due to physical abuse, and 2% due to sexual abuse. For children who entered care in the first half of 2013, 35% were reunified with their families and 62% were still in foster care one year later. The median length of time California children spent in foster care declined between 2001 and 2009 from 17 to 13 months, but then rose to 15 months in 2012.
The rate of first entries into foster care varies by race/ethnicity and age. African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children consistently have the highest rates of foster care entry, at 8.9 and 8.5 per 1,000, respectively, in 2012-14; this compares to 2.9 for Hispanic/Latino, 2.6 for White, and 0.7 for Asian/Pacific Islander children during the same period. Of all age groups, infants consistently have the highest rates of entry into foster care. In 2012-14, the rate of California infants entering foster care (11.9 per 1,000) was nearly 3 times the rate of children ages 1-2, nearly 4 times that of ages 3-5, and more 5 times that of older age groups.For more information on racial disproportionality and inequities in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
- Policy Implications
Children and youth in foster care interact with a range of public and private systems that can support them and help them obtain permanent, safe homes. Policymakers have an important role in helping to prevent children from entering foster care, ensuring the health and well being of those in care, and facilitating the connections and opportunities that enable youth “aging out” of the system to thrive as adults.
According to research and subject experts, policy and program options that could help prevent children from entering foster care and improve outcomes for those in care include:
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway, California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, or California Fostering Connections Project.
- Continuing to ensure that effective prevention services are in place for families with children at risk of abuse or neglect, such as family support, parent education, and home-visiting services (1)
- Supporting efforts to provide an accessible system of quality mental health services for children in foster care or at risk of entering care, as well as for their parents (2)
- Continuing efforts to recruit, strengthen, and support foster homes provided by relatives of children in care, removing barriers that can make it difficult for relatives to provide care; when children cannot be placed with kin, placements in other family settings should be prioritized over group settings (3)
- Continuing to address family separation issues as a consequence of immigration enforcement (4)
- Supporting effective strategies to reduce the overrepresentation of, and improve outcomes for, children of color in foster care (5)
- Implementing and strengthening laws and child welfare agency practices to protect and support LGBTQ youth in foster care (6)
- Continuing to increase awareness of and improve responses to the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in foster care (7, 8)
- In accordance with California’s Local Control Funding Formula, supporting the educational success of children in foster care by addressing issues such as school enrollment barriers; social, health, and academic needs, including specialized services; and the need for communication and data sharing, among other issues; also, ensuring that foster youth are aware of and have support to pursue postsecondary education and workforce opportunities (9, 10, 11)
- Ensuring effective implementation of existing laws that support foster youth in the transition to adulthood, including the California Fostering Connections to Success Act which extends foster care services to age 21, and the Affordable Care Act which extends Medicaid coverage to foster youth until age 26 (12)
- Promoting efforts to increase collaboration across sectors (e.g., child welfare, education, health care, housing, public assistance, workforce systems, and others) to ensure that all foster youth – including those with disabilities, parenting and pregnant foster youth, those facing homelessness, and other vulnerable groups – receive the services and support they need to thrive (11, 12, 13)
Sources for this narrative:
1. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2015). Child maltreatment: Prevention strategies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/prevention.html
2. California Department of Social Services and California Department of Health Care Services. (2013). Pathways to mental health services: Core practice model guide. Retrieved from: http://www.childsworld.ca.gov/res/pdf/CorePracticeModelGuide.pdf
3. Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2015). Every kid needs a family: Giving children in the child welfare system the best chance for success. Retrieved from: http://www.aecf.org/resources/every-kid-needs-a-family
4. Lincroft, Y. (2013). The Reuniting Immigrant Families Act: A case study on California’s Senate Bill 1064. First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center. Retrieved from: http://childwelfaresparc.org/the-reuniting-immigrant-families-act-a-case-study-of-californias-senate-bill-1064
5. Miller, O., & Esenstad, A. (2015). Strategies to reduce racially disparate outcomes in child welfare. Center for the Study of Social Policy, Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. Retrieved from: http://www.cssp.org/publications/child-welfare?type=child_welfare_alliance_for_race_equity
6. Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). LGBTQ youth in the foster care system. Retrieved from: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/lgbt-youth-in-the-foster-care-system
7. Walker, K. (2013). Ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children: A call for multi-system collaboration in California. California Child Welfare Council. Retrieved from:
http://www.chhs.ca.gov/CWCDOC/Ending CSEC - A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in CA - February 2013.pdf
8. Children’s Defense Fund, et al. (2015). Implementing the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183) to benefit children and youth. Retrieved from: http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/implementing-the-preventing.pdf
9. Frerer, K., et al. (2013). At greater risk: California foster youth and the path from high school to college. Stuart Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.stuartfoundation.org/NewsAndReports/ReportsAndResearch/ReportsArchive/2013/05/22/at-greater-risk-california-foster-youth-and-the-path-from-high-school-to-college
10. Alliance for Children’s Rights, et al. (n.d.). Foster youth education toolkit. Retrieved from: http://kids-alliance.org/edtoolkit
11. Russ, E., & Fryar, G. (2014). Creating access to opportunities for youth in transition from foster care. American Youth Policy Forum. Retrieved from: http://www.aypf.org/resources/creating-access-to-opportunities-for-youth-in-transition-from-foster-care-2
12. California Fostering Connections Project. (n.d.). California fostering connections to success. Retrieved from: http://www.cafosteringconnections.org
13. Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. (2014). From foster home to homeless: Strategies to prevent homelessness for youth transitioning from foster care. Retrieved from: http://www.jimcaseyyouth.org/foster-home-homeless-strategies-prevent-homelessness-youth-transitioning-foster-care
- Websites with Related Information
- Annie E. Casey Foundation: Child Welfare Resources
- California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, California Dept. of Social Services
- California Fostering Connections Project, John Burton Foundation
- Center for the Study of Social Policy: Child Welfare
- Child Trends: Child Welfare
- Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems Publications, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
- Child Welfare Information Gateway, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau
- Child Welfare League of America
- Children and Family Services Division, California Dept. of Social Services
- First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center
- Healthy Foster Care America, American Academy of Pediatrics
- National Center for Youth Law: Foster Care
- Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation: Abuse, Neglect, Adoption & Foster Care, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families
- PolicyforResults.org, Center for the Study of Social Policy
- Represent: The Voice of Youth in Care, Youth Communication
- Key Reports
- 2016 California Children's Report Card, Children Now
- At Greater Risk: California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College, 2013, Stuart Foundation, Frerer, K., et al.
- Building a System of Support for Young Children in Foster Care, 2013, California Child Welfare Council, Child Development and Successful Youth Transitions Committee
- Creating Access to Opportunities for Youth in Transition from Foster Care, 2014, American Youth Policy Forum, Russ, E., & Fryar, G.
- Disproportionality, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, 2015, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Foster Youth Education Toolkit, Alliance for Children’s Rights, et al.
- From Foster Home to Homeless: Strategies to Prevent Homelessness for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care, 2014, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
- Health-Care Coverage for Youth in Foster Care — and After, 2015, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Immigration and Child Welfare, 2015, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Investing to Improve the Well-Being of Vulnerable Youth and Young Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice, 2015, Youth Transitions Funders Group, Hanson Langford, B., et al.
- LGBTQ Youth in the Foster Care System, Human Rights Campaign
- Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2013, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Providing Foster Care for Young Adults: Early Implementation of California’s Fostering Connections Act, 2013, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Courtney, M. E., et al.
- Strategies to Reduce Racially Disparate Outcomes in Child Welfare, 2015, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, Miller, O., & Esenstad, A.
- Transition Age Youth and the Child Protection System: Demographic and Case Characteristics — California, 2015, Children's Data Network and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Cuccaro-Alamin, S., et al.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2014 Solano Children's Report Card, Children's Network of Solano County
- 2015 Kern County Report Card, Kern County Network for Children
- Children's Report Card, Sacramento County Children's Coalition
- Fresno Community Scorecard, Fresno Business Council and Valley PBS
- San Diego County Report Card on Children and Families, 2013, The Children's Initiative
- Santa Clara County Children's Agenda: 2015 Data Book, Planned Parenthood and Kids in Common
- The 21st Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County, 2015, Orange County Children's Partnership
- Youth Homelessness in the Era of AB12: Findings from the Alameda County AB 12 Homeless Youth Demonstration Project, 2013, Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance, et al.
- More Data Sources For Foster Care
- California Child Welfare Indicators Project, UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research and California Dept. of Social Services
- Child Trends Databank: Child Maltreatment
- Child Trends Databank: Child Welfare
- Children’s Bureau: Statistics & Research, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- Knowing the Numbers: Accessing and Using Child Welfare Data, 2014, First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center, Vandivere, S., & DeVooght, K.
- National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, Cornell University, College of Human Ecology
- Out-of-Home Care Facility Search: Violation and Other Information, Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services
- State Child Welfare Policy Database, Child Trends and Casey Family Programs