As we celebrate 2023 May National Foster Care month, here is the latest publicly available data. In 2021, an estimated 391,098 children were in foster care in the United States. This number has been steadily declining in recent years, but there is still a significant number of children living without a permanent home. See AFCARS report #29 from November 2022 and the summary screenshot below.
Many factors contribute to the number of children in foster care. These circumstances for removal are neglect (63%), Parent drug abuse (36%), Caretaker inability to cope (14%), Physical abuse (12%), and others. Since more than one reason exists for removing the child, the totals for reasons do not add up to 100 in the AFCARS report.
The following is a list of the 10 states with the highest number of children in foster care in 2021:
- California (47,871)
- Texas (28,042)
- Florida (23,507)
- Illinois (21,086)
- Ohio (15,449)
- Arizona (14,890)
- New York (14,657)
- Pennsylvania (13,664)
- Indiana (13,239)
- Missouri (13,194)
The data from the AFCARS State reports shows a wide variation in the number of children in foster care across the states. The ten states with the highest number of children in foster care have a large population, and the ratio of people to foster kids in a state will be covered in a future blog.
Several factors contribute to the variation in the number of children in foster care across the states. Some of these factors could include the state’s child poverty rate, the state’s racial and ethnic demographics, and the level of reporting by the public and mandated reporters that cause an investigation by the State child Welfare authorities.
The state’s child poverty rate is an important factor contributing to the number of children in foster care. Children who live in poverty are more likely to experience abuse and neglect, and they are also more likely to be placed in foster care.
The state’s racial and ethnic demographics can also affect the number of children in foster care. Children from minority groups are more likely to be placed in foster care than white children.
According to JooYeun Chang, ACF Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, over 100,000 kids were waiting for foster parents in 2020:
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, many resources are available to help you. You can contact your local child welfare agency or find information online. If we work in your State and region, you can attend one of StartFosterCare’s monthly meetings. Many support groups and training programs are also available to help you prepare for the challenges of foster parenting.