How many children are in foster care in the United States? In my state? How long do children stay in foster care? What happens to them after they emancipate?


The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) reports collect case-level information on all children in foster care for whom state child welfare agencies have responsibility for placement, care, or supervision and on children who are adopted under the auspices of the state's public child welfare agency. The AFCARS reports include national aggregate data on the demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity) of children in the public foster care system, their length of stay in foster care, placement settings, case goals, reasons for discharge, and the number of entries and exits for the fiscal year.

All available reports are posted on the Children’s Bureau website:

Another federal source of statistics on children in foster care is the Child Welfare Outcomes reports. These reports, a requirement of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, examine each state’s performance on seven child welfare outcomes, including increasing permanency for children in foster care, reducing the time in foster care to reunification without increasing reentry, and reducing time in foster care to adoption.

Research on the foster care population that aged out of care is fairly limited, and the few studies that are available have typically focused in a small number of states. The National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), required by The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (now the John. H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood), is a national data collection system that is used to identify outcomes for young adults that are either currently or have been involved in foster care. The NYTD data collection has helped advance a national goal of better understanding which independent living services are more likely to lead to positive outcomes for these young people. The NYTD outcomes reports summarize the demographic data and the financial and social outcomes of former foster youth who recently transitioned out of care.

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