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How long do children stay in foster care? What are their plans after foster care?

Office:
CB
Categories:
Child Welfare
Topics:
Foster Care

Answer

Through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, collects data from the States about children in foster care and children who are adopted from foster care. According to the most recent report, AFCARS Report # 19 that includes preliminary estimates of AFCARS data for FY 2011, of the estimated 400,540 children in foster care on September 30, 2011:

  • Approximately 45 percent of children had been in care for less than 1 year.
  • Approximately 23 percent of children had been in care for 1–2 years.
  • Approximately 11 percent of children had been in care for 2–3 years.
  • Approximately 10 percent of children had been in care for 3–4 years.
  • Approximately 10 percent of children had been in care for 5 years or more.

Each child in foster care has a case goal as part of his or her case plan for leaving foster care. Case goals can include, for example, reunifying with their parent(s). According to AFCARS Report # 19, case goals for children in care included: 

  • Reunifying with parents or principal caregivers (52 percent)
  • Live with other relatives (3 percent)
  • Adoption (25 percent)
  • Long-term foster care (6 percent)
  • Emancipation (5 percent)
  • Guardianship (4 percent)

Reports from previous years are available: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistic....

In addition, the Children's Bureau research on child welfare issues includes a series of annual Child Welfare Outcomes Reports to Congress that include State-level data from the AFCARS reports.