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Foster Care & Orphans

May 17, 2010

In the US there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care (Based on data submitted by states as of January 16, 2008)

130,000 of those children in foster care are waiting and available for adoption. Children waiting to be adopted include children with a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated. Children whose parental rights have been terminated, who are 16 years old and older, and who have a goal of emancipation are excluded from the “waiting” population. An individual child is included in the count for each year that he or she has these characteristics on the last day of the year.

Approximately 51,000 children are adopted from the foster system each year.

That leaves 79,000 children annually in the US needing an adoptive family.

Each year, an estimated 22,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth are often left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations:


  • Earned a high school diploma         54%
  • Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher     2%
  • Became a parent                 84%
  • Were unemployed                 51%
  • Had no health insurance             30%
  • Had been homeless                 25%
  • Were receiving public assistance         30%

By the year 2020:

  • 22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday^
  • More than 10.5 million children will spend some time in foster care^^
  • More than 300,000 children will age out of our foster care system, some in poor health and many unprepared for success in higher education, technical college or the workforce^^^
  • 75,000 former foster youth, who aged out of the system, will experience homelessness^^^^

Here are the latest statistics from the Federal AFCARS data (2006)

Who are the children waiting in the U.S. foster care system?

  • 510,000 children in foster care nationally
  • 32% of foster children are between the ages of 0 and 5
  • 28% of foster children are between the ages of 6 and 12
  • 40% of foster children are between the ages of 13 and 21
  • Average # of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2 birthdays (28 months)
  • Average # of placements children experience: 3
  • 17% (88,475) of children live in group care or institutional settings

What are United States’ foster children waiting for?

  • 248,054 (49%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families
  • 127,000 (25%) are waiting to be adopted
  • Average time foster care children have been waiting to be adopted: 39.4 months

Where did the United States’ children go after leaving foster care in 2006?

  • 287,691 children exited foster care
  • 152,152 (53%) were returned to their parents
  • 49,741 (17%) were adopted
  • 45,761 (16%) left to live with relatives (some through guardianships)
  • 26,181 (9%) “aged out” or left the system at age of 18 or older
  • 12,086 (4%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)
  • 2,349 (1%) left for unknown reasons

Find statistics for your state here.

These facts and figures were gathered from the Abba Fund Blog.

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