How Many Kids are in Foster Care? | Children's Bureau



How Many Kids Are in Foster Care?

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are about 368,000 kids in foster care in the United States. Averaging around half a million children served annually, foster care provides a temporary home for a significant amount of children throughout the United States.

In California specifically, foster care rates are equally as alarming with around 68,000 children moving in and out of foster homes annually—more than half of those children are in Southern California alone. As May is National Foster Care Month, shedding light on how many kids are in foster care in the United States, it is an important way to understand the significance of how many children are constantly in need of a safe home and child welfare.

Read on to learn more about how many children are in foster care and how you can help.

Foster Care Statistics in California

The foster care system is one that has saved the lives of many children, however, it can be a difficult process nonetheless. As far as California goes, the foster care statistics are currently as follows:

  • California makes up for around 12% of the children in U.S. foster homes
  • 34% of cases reported are for children below the age of 5 years old
  • Roughly 4,000 children age out of foster care in California every year
  • In California, children enter foster care for neglect 84% of the time.

How Long Do Children Stay in the Foster Care System?

On average, children and teens stay in the foster care system for 12 to 20 months.  The majority of foster youth stay with their foster family for 1 to 5 months. 

At an average age of 7 years old, many children enter the foster care system as a result of living in an unstable home environment, mistreatment, or neglect. Foster care provides children with a stable environment for development and growth.

Life After Foster Care

When it comes to life after foster care, this can occur in one of two ways. First, children can be placed in permanent homes, whether that means being reunited with their birth parents and family members, or with a new family through adoption. These new homes are thoroughly reviewed to make sure that they will allow the child to be supported and loved as they grow in that environment with an adoptive family.

Second, children can “age out” of foster care. This means that the child has reached 18-21 years old—post-high school age—and is no longer qualified for foster care placement, leaving them to find ways to support themselves as part of the general population. When children age out, unfortunately nearly 20% of young people who age out will end up homeless.

With a number of unstable transitions in foster children’s lives, trauma from mental and physical abuse and neglect can create additional barriers that make the transition out of foster homes a very difficult process.

child abuse prevention

How to Help

If you want to help but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ways you can get involved with foster youth:

Volunteer and Provide Emotional Support

There are a number of ways to connect with foster youth and become a light in their lives. One of the best ways to provide emotional support is to sign up to be a volunteer or a mentor to a child in need. Organizations and programs all across the United States are consistently looking for individuals to volunteer their time to foster children in need.

When you sign up to volunteer, you are signing up to make a difference in the life of a little one who needs and deserves both guidance and empathy.

Donate Resources

Aside from donating your time and emotional support, donating resources is a great option as well when it comes to helping foster children.

Typically, when children enter the foster care program system, they are placed in a group home with no belongings of their own. That said, clothing, school materials, gifts, comfort items, and hygienic materials are all useful and greatly appreciated items that can be donated to support a child in need.

Monetary donations are also a great way to make a difference in the lives of foster children. The money donated goes towards enhancing organizations that give foster children the tools and support they need for a better and brighter future.

No matter what you choose to donate, you can guarantee that even the smallest donation will make a significant impact on the lives of children in foster homes. Visit Children’s Bureau’s donate page to support our programs and initiatives.

Become a Foster Parent

Lastly, if you are ready to make a lifelong impact on a child in need, there are plenty of ways to start the process of becoming a foster parent yourself. At Children’s Bureau, we seek to create a safe and healthy environment for children to grow up and thrive in. With virtual group sessions, an at-your-own-pace presentation, and a team that is at your service with any questions you may have, becoming a foster parent has never been easier.

For a guide of resources on how to become a foster parent, look no further than Children’s Bureau’s family foster care, adoption, and related services. When you feel ready to take this next step as a foster parent, Children’s Bureau has a team of support waiting to help you on this life-changing journey.

Eye-Opening Insight to the System

Most individuals are not aware of just how many children are in foster care. There are a significant number of children in need of healthy and stable homes not only in the United States but in California, specifically. One way to help bring light to the foster care system is by spreading the word.

By sharing these statistics with loved ones and friends, more attention can be brought to foster care children and optimistically, help bring in more resources for them in doing so. No matter how you decide to help out, knowledge is the grounding point in change. That said, continue to do your part in understanding and spreading the knowledge – children’s lives will change as a result.


Reviewed By:

Leslie Oropeza, Senior Director of Foster Care and Adoption 

Leslie Oropeza is the Senior Director of Foster Care and Adoption at Children’s Bureau. She has been working in the foster care and adoption field for over 17 years and has a passion for working with under-tapped populations. Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Counseling from California State, Los Angeles.



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