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November 2013Vol. 14, No. 8Demographic Trends in Foster Care 2002-2012

Using statistics from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), an issue brief from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families' Office of Data, Analysis, Research and Evaluation provides new details on the U.S. foster care system's size reduction over the last decade. The brief offers trends in demographics among children in foster care and State and county patterns.

Between 2002 and 2012, the overall number of children in foster care decreased by 24 percent—from 523,616 to 399,546. Demographically, reductions among African-American children in foster care were the most dramatic—declining by more than 47 percent during this time and accounting for three-quarters of the overall decline. Once making up more than a third of the foster care population, African-American children now represent just over one-quarter of all children in foster care. The group of children in foster care identified with two or more races experienced substantial growth during the same period, increasing from 13,857 children in foster care in 2002 to 22,942 in 2012. Statistics also show that since 2009, Native American children have had the highest rates of representation in foster care; however, these children, along with children of all other races and ethnicities, experienced reductions in average length of stay in care.

Ten States accounted for more than 90 percent of the total decline in foster care (California, New York, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and New Jersey), while three States (California, New York, and Florida) accounted for more than 50 percent of the reduction. Texas and Arizona experienced relatively large increases in the size of their foster care population. 

Recent Demographic Trends in Foster Care is available on the Children's Bureau website: (547 KB)