Who enters Foster Care in the US?

We were fascinated with the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) data that provides a great overview of the nationwide foster care challenge. Here is the table from the AFCARS data for 2019 reported in 2020 . This is for children entering foster care in 2019.

Since this table is useful to both prospective foster parents and foster care professionals given the kinds of questions we heard at our May National Foster Care meetings here is a brief discussion:

Biological Families Do Work: There were 73 million children in the US in 2019 according to the Children’s Defence Fund. Seen as a percentage of the total child population the number of children entering foster care is about 0.34%. This is extremely positive because it indicates that more than 99% kids are in their biological families. A small fraction has a problem at their biological home. Generally the American Family is strong!

What Age do kids enter foster care?: The age table and median age suggests that majority of the children are between 6-7. One of the interesting discussion points at our last month’s meetings was that younger kids are not able to articulate what is bothering them. Hence they can act out at the foster home. It is here that the skill and patience of the foster parent comes in. Teenagers are able to articulate their feelings and in that sense the foster parent is more likely to know what is bothering them.

Race of kids entering foster care: One prospective foster parent had enquired whether we have sessions in Spanish at StartFosterCare.org. Foster care professionals at the local level probably need to consider offering sessions in Spanish (21%) depending on their local needs. As explained in our Kinship care or Foster Care post, this is a local effort in the community , and Spanish speaking foster parents are more likely to be able to connect with the biological parents.

Why Children are moved to foster care?: This section of the table above is fascinating. 64% Children are removed for neglect. There are 39 parental behaviors that are associated with Child neglect according to Maughan and Moore (2010). They studied predictors of adult delinquency and came out with two predictors from a parent behavior point of view. These are supervision and a disorganized/chaotic home environment that predicted adult delinquency. We need to do more research on exactly how “neglect” is defined in the foster care system. Interestingly, we heard foster care professionals keep emphasizing the need for prospective foster parents to provide supervision and a stable home environment to the foster child. Exactly what keeps the general population away from delinquency!

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