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May 2009Vol. 10, No. 4How Americans View Foster Care

A national online Harris Poll commissioned by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association found that most adults know little about foster care or the experience of children in care. The poll was conducted in December 2008 and gathered data from 2,281 adults about their impressions of the foster care system and its impact on children. Results were weighted to reflect the whole U.S. population. Key findings indicate the following:

  • 83 percent of adults knew very little about the experience of children in care.
  • 31 percent knew someone who was or had been in foster care.
  • 45 percent reported negative impressions of foster care, and 11 percent reported positive impressions (the remainder were neutral or did not have enough information to decide).
  • 11 percent thought that children were in foster care because of something the children did, although the majority strongly disagreed and tended to blame the biological parents.
  • 87 percent agreed that improving the foster care system should be a national priority.

In a press release about the poll's findings, the National CASA Association contrasted the poll results with a focus group study conducted earlier in the year with 50 youth currently or formerly in foster care. These youth present a different picture, with many of the youth developing into determined individuals, optimistic about their future. They felt that the difficulties they had faced had made them stronger. Many cited disruptions in schooling and problems finding resources after leaving foster care as major obstacles; however, they noted that the support of a significant adult—like a CASA volunteer—can help them overcome some of these challenges.

PowerPoint slides of the Harris poll results and the focus group study are available on the CASA website, while the press release is available on Reuters: