• November 2011
  • Vol. 12, No. 8

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The Economic Benefits of Foster Care Adoption

At a time when our nation is experiencing a multitude of economic hardships, Federal, State and local agencies could potentially lower expenditures while maintaining essential child welfare services if more children and youth from the foster care system were adopted. This is the argument of Nicholas Zill in his May 2011 Center on Children and Families brief, Adoption From Foster Care: Aiding Children While Saving Public Money. Everyone agrees on the benefits of permanency for children, but Zill takes the argument further by identifying a monetary benefit for society.

The public costs of foster care are substantial; under title IV-E of the Social Security Act alone, annual State and Federal expenditures total in excess of $9 billion. Additional money is spent for medical care, food stamps, cash welfare, and child care payments to families caring for foster youth. There also are long-term costs associated with youth in care, such as those related to dropping out of high school, unemployment, homelessness, teenage parenthood, drug and alcohol abuse, and crime. For example, Zill notes, in 2004, it cost approximately $5.1 billion to incarcerate former foster youth in State and Federal prisons.

Recent data indicate that less than 15 percent of all children in foster care will be adopted. In FY 2009, 57,000 foster children were adopted, but the number of youth in care awaiting adoption was more than double – 115,000.

Zill draws on data from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP), which provides evidence that may support his position. The aim of the NSAP analysis summarized in this brief was to compare the life circumstances and well-being of children adopted from foster care with those of foster children remaining in care. Based on data from the comparative survey analysis, it was determined that children adopted from the foster care system have more favorable home environments for child development and well-being than those in care. Factors affecting positive outcomes for children and youth include a two-parent family, higher parent education level, higher family income level, and safe and family-friendly neighborhood.

To read the full brief, Adoption From Foster Care: Aiding Children While Saving Public Money, visit the Brookings website:

http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2011/05_adoption_foster_care_zill.aspx

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