The Foster Care CrisisLydia Cockrell
Foster Care Statistics
More than 420,000 children and youth are already in the foster care system. This number is constantly in flux, as children are reunited with their families, adopted into a permanent home, or age out of the system upon turning 18. Additionally, many children enter the foster care system each year. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that, in 2020 alone, “213,964 children under 18 entered foster care in the United States.”
This places significant strain on an already existing foster care crisis. Additionally, other public health issues can impact the number of children in welfare systems. The link between foster care and the opioid crisis, for example, is well documented. In a 2015 study, “parental substance use was cited as a factor in about 32 percent of all foster placements.”
Foster Care Trauma
For kids within the system, as well as young adults who have aged out of it, trauma is rife. An estimated 90% of these children will experience trauma.
Child traumatic stress is defined as occurring “when children and adolescents are exposed to events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope and interfere with daily life and their ability to function and interact with others.” Many children in foster care have been exposed to such traumatic events before they enter the system, and the very act of entering the system itself—being separated from family, siblings, friends, and familiar surroundings—is a form of trauma itself. Even “short stays” in foster care can leave lasting damage.
Trauma often creates behavior problems that can cause difficulties in foster care placement. This can exacerbate trauma problems, as “children who undergo unstable placement, in addition to prior abuse and neglect, are twice as likely to cultivate behavior problems versus foster youth who attain stable foster care placements.”
These traumatic experiences are cause for concern when it comes to the mental health of kids in foster care. Estimates indicate that “half (50 percent) of children and youth in the child welfare systems are at a 2.5 times heightened risk in developing mental health disorders compared to children not involved in the child welfare system.”
Aging Out of Foster Care
Sadly, the struggles of those in foster care are only compounded when they age out of the system. Expected to live on their own, burdened with trauma, and often unequipped for adulthood, these young adults can face a grim future.
There is an established link between foster care and homelessness. For those aging out of the system, 20% are instantly homeless, while 40% will be homeless within a mere 18 months. These young adults also face financial and family issues, as well as a higher risk of incarceration.
Here at For Others, we’re a collective of change-makers working together to address the foster care crisis plaguing our nation’s most vulnerable. Join us in the fight to solve the foster care crisis, and donate today to help restore lives!