Characteristics of Foster Children in the U.S., 2016-2018

National Center for Family & Marriage Research  FP-19-09  NCFMR  BGSU  Characteristics of Foster Children in the U.S., 2016-2018  Valerie Schweizer  Foster children come from many different backgrounds and experiences. Using pooled (2016-2018) Current Population Survey (CPS) data, this profile examines how foster children compare to biological, adopted, and stepchildren. Statistics reported here represent minor children identified as a foster child to the head of household. The CPS estimate is lower than that provided by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which considers foster children through age 20. Further, AFCARS designates children placed in foster care with a relative who are likely identified as a relative to the household head in the CPS rather than a foster child. The CPS data allow for detailed poverty estimates that include foster children (e.g. supplemental poverty)—which is not available in any other datasetproviding unique insight into a vulnerable population in the U.S.  Trend of Foster Children in the U.S.  Figure 1. Number of Foster Children, 1988-2018  The number of foster children has risen since 1988. From 1988 to 1998, there was a 46% increase in the number of foster children, representing the largest increase in the last three decades.  250,190  1998  254,099  300000  227,602  171,393  200000  100000  0 1988  2008  2016-2018  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 1988-2018.  Age of Foster Children  Figure 2. Age of Foster Children and Biological/Adopted/Stepchildren, 2016-2018 Foster Children Bio/Adopted/Step  47%  Children in foster care were often younger than those who were not in foster care; in 2016-2018, 47% of foster children were 6 or younger compared to only 37% of other children.  50 40 30 20 10 0  37%  30%  34%  23%  29%  About one-quarter of foster children were teenagers (13-27) in contrast to 29% of biological, adopted, or stepchildren.  0-6  7-12  13-17  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016-2018. Race/Ethnicity of Foster Children, 2016-2018  Foster children were more racially and ethnically diverse compared with biological, adopted, and stepchildren in the U.S.  Over one-quarter (28%) of foster children were Hispanic, and almost one-fifth (17%) of foster children were Black.  The majority of biological, adopted, and stepchildren were White (56%). The majority of foster children were either Black, Hispanic, or multiracial.  Poverty Status of Foster Children, 2016-2018  Figure 3. Race/Ethnicity of Foster Children vs Biological/Adopted/Stepchildren, 2016-2018  Foster Children  Bio/Adopted/Step  56%  60 50 40 30 20 10 0  44%  28%  24%  17%  14%  11%  5%  White  Black  Hispanic  Bi/Multiracial  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016-2018.  Figure 4. Children Living in Poverty (Supplemental): Foster Children vs. Biological/Adopted/Stepchildren, 2016-2018  About 18% of foster children lived in poverty compared with 15% of other children.  Foster Children  Bio/Adopted/Step  50  25  0  For more information on the history of the poverty measure, please visit the United States Census Bureau’s website [link].  18%  15%  Poor  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016-2018.  References:  Flood, S., King, M., Rodgers R., Ruggles, S, and Warren, J. R. (2018). Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 6.0. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 1988-2018. https://doi.org/10.18128/D030.V6.0 O’Hare, W. P. (2008). Data on Children in Foster Care from the Census Bureau. Kids Count, The Annie E. Casey Foundation.  United States. (2016). The AFCARS report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau.  Suggested Citation:  Schweizer, V. J. (2019). Characteristics of foster children in the U.S., 2016-2018 Family Profiles, FP-19-09. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. https://doi.org/10.25035/ncfmr/fp-19-09.  419.372.3119  ncfmr@bgsu.edu  Family Profiles: Original reports summarizing and analyzing nationally representative data with the goal to provide the latest analysis of U.S. families. These profiles examine topics related to the NCFMR's core research themes.  This project is supported with assistance from Bowling Green State University. From 2007 to 2013, support was also provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the state or federal government.  http://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr