Some facts

  • Over 200,000 children enter the foster system each year in the United States
  • Over 400,000 children are in the foster system at any given time
  • Every 2 minutes a child is entered into the the foster system
  • If a child stays in foster care for 2 years, they will likely move placements 5 times or more
  • Filings for children in need has tripled over the past ten years
  • Drug-related foster cases have increased over 6X from 2000 to 2015 and it keeps skyrocketing
  • A bit over 60,000 kids were adopted out of foster care in 2018 leaving many in the foster system

– Damar Foster Care Services, AFCARS, Pewtrusts

Aging out of a broken system

According to over 20,000 youth in foster care age out every year.

The phrase “age out” is a term to describe youth who turn eighteen before finding a permanent home. This is a callous term to describe a child being without a forever family forced to face the world alone. According to almost half of youth in foster care end up homeless just eighteen months after aging out. I was shocked to find the majority of the teens in foster care, were given a tent and sleeping bag and sent on their way when turned eighteen.

Many if not all of these children and teens desperately crave a real family. Most of these children have no one they trust and have a very hard background of the adults in their lives using and abusing them in ways that most of us cant begin to understand. Most of us grew up not having to worry where our next meal was coming from, or if it was coming at all. Or if we were going to catch a beating just because, or worse.

The truth is that, many people don't even know. It is more out of sight, out of mind. If you really think about it, when is the last time you saw a foster care commercial during a commercial break of a show you watched, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Yellowstone, and so on.... Keep thinking, I don't remember, and I watched them all. What about commercials on abused animals though? Twice, three times every commercial break. Millions of dollars spent just on commercials and celebrity spots... I love animals very much, it hurts my soul too to see them getting abused, I also have 5 stray animals that were in horrible condition when we brought them in, but priorities...

Drug use and teen pregnancy in foster care

80 percent of inmates in the state of California spent time in foster care.

Another terrifying statistic put out by National Center for Youth Law is that 25 percent of those youth in foster care will be incarcerated. In fact, 80 percent of inmates in the state of California spent time in foster care. Teen pregnancy is another issue many young girls in foster care deal with. According to The National Center for Youth Law, by the time young women who have aged out of foster care are 21 years old, 71 percent of them become pregnant. With the statistics of how many aged out foster kids end up homeless, getting pregnant is that much rougher.

I have heard that for these girls that get pregnant, that they can just get an abortion. There are many problems with that... For one, many of these girls are wanting to have a child so they have something to love and to love them back, as they have not had that their entire lives. For another, it does no good for the child that is having the abortion, it leaves a void reminding them they are alone again and once it is done, they are forgotten by everyone else involved again. Once the abortion clinic gets their subsidies from the government, they no longer care unless there is another service they can push to get more money from the government.

Many of these children do not do these things because they are lashing out, or just want to do it, its more that they don't know any better. This is all they have seen, and all that they know.

Foster Children, who have already survived countless challenges and extreme trauma, are expected to be self sufficient on their 18th birthday.

I was fortunate myself to be adopted into a stable, Midwestern home and I still made many mistakes and poor choices. How about you?

When the topic of adopting or foster care for teens comes up, most people run the other way. I get it, nobody wants to face head-on with teen sass, drugs, and promiscuous and risky behavior. While all those things are a probability, it shouldn’t mean taking the idea of adopting teens off the table.

You’d be surprised to find that with teens also comes meaningful conversations, gut laughs over sappy movies, and singing at the top of your lungs on a road trip to what teens consider “oldies” music.

The truth is, every stage of parenting is hard. Newborns don’t sleep through the night, toddlers destroy everything and suck out the little energy you have, and middle schoolers are coming into their emotions and it’s like playing mood roulette. So when I say fostering or adopting a teen is hard, it is not breaking news. It’s just a different kind of hard. As with many hard things, it is worth it and there is a surprising amount of unexpected joy.

More Information

just a couple More facts

Here are a few small bits of information to begin to put the pieces into place of a much bigger picture of the need for these foster and at risk youths.

Caseloads of a Broken Government system

The issue of high caseloads and workloads has been a challenge for the child welfare field for decades and continues to negatively impact children and families served by the system. Data from the latest round of Federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) showed that high caseloads and workloads negatively affected caseworkers' ability to achieve permanence goals, respond to maltreatment reports in a timely manner, efficiently file court documents and paperwork, and attend training (JBS International, Inc., 2020).

The issue stems from a variety of circumstances, including understaffed and under supported agencies, increasingly complex needs of families, high caseworker turnover, and limited funding (Kim et al, 2019). Service availability and program capacity may also affect workloads. When families cannot access the services they need, caseworkers often must do more work to fill in gaps, and it may take longer to resolve cases. These gaps do not get filled by the system though, considering the government is spending our tax dollars on policies and agendas that are complete and total waste and overreach. These changes in laws and policies may also lead to an increased number of families involved with the system and increased expectations of caseworkers.
Turnover among caseworkers continues to be a leading cause and consequence of high caseloads and workloads. The median caseworker handles 55 cases per year; however, the median caseworker stays on the job for only 1.8 years (Edwards & Wildeman, 2018). (See this data visualization from the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development [QIC-WD] for caseworker turnover rates by State.) When a caseworker quits, transfers, or leaves their role, the consequences are costly for families, whose cases may be reassigned and delayed; for agencies, which take on additional recruiting, interviewing, and training expenses; and for remaining caseworkers, who take on additional cases. Turnover has increased in many fields in recent years as a record number of workers in the United States continue to quit their jobs (a movement dubbed the Great Resignation, which many associate with the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the tax dollars handed out to stay at home), and high turnover continues to be a persistent challenge in the child welfare field. As the turnover crisis continues, many agencies are increasingly looking to improve staffing and retention as a strategy to combat high caseloads and workloads and improve outcomes for families.
This has been going on for decades though, with all the platitudes that end up on the 18th page at the bottom without a headline. Nothing ever gets done, all the while, record government spending on frivolous issues that have not fixed any problems. Politics and agendas get billions if not trillions of tax dollars thrown at them, padding the pockets of politicians and lobbying groups.
At what point do these children become the agenda?

About the children in foster care

Children and teens enter foster care through no fault of their own, because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and are unable to continue living safely with their families. Many due to drug and or alcohol abuse.

According to the most recent federal data, there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. They range in age from infants to 21 years old (in some states). The average age of a child in foster care is more than 8 years old, and there are slightly more boys than girls.
Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. All of these children have experienced loss and some form of trauma. In other ways, foster children are no different from children who aren’t in foster care: they are learning and growing, like to play and hang out with friends their age, and need the love and stability a permanent home provides.
The median amount of time that a child spends in foster care is just over a year. More than half of the children in foster care will be reunified with their parents or primary caregivers, and nearly one-quarter will be adopted, many by their foster parents.
Each year, approximately 20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, or when they finish high school (depending upon the state in which they live.) These children are at increased risk of poor educational outcomes, experiencing homelessness, and being unemployed. (

Teens in the foster care system are in the most need as they are the least adopted. Why is it important for these teens to be cared for?

Teens are very aware of the situation they are in and understand that there is a good chance they will not be adopted. Which is a very depressing situation for them. They feel uncared for, forgotten, and unwanted. Talk about damaging to your mental health. The sad fact is, they are not completely wrong. Caseworkers are too overloaded to pay any personal attention to them, most of the private foster care agencies only care about signing up new fosterers because it pays well with subsidies and government grants to pay salary bonuses. And, how is the CEO supposed to get that new Lambo, if the govt' cheese aint coming in! Am I right?!

These teens are a good part of our countries future! When given the chance, they could grow up to be the next great surgeon, scientist, or President of the United States. Or, it could just keep going the way it is and they could very well end up just another statistic...

What happens to kids who age out of foster care?

23,000 children age out of foster care annually, instantly losing access to nearly every form of support.

This is what happens to them.

20% become instantly homeless.

Picture that. 20% of kids who age out of foster care become instantly homeless. They walk out of their foster home or residential institution with whatever they’ve managed to hold on while being shuffled from home to home--and have absolutely nothing to catch them. What a desperate, terrifying situation to be put in.
The vast majority of foster youth have faced immense obstacles to learning and personal development, leaving them ill equipped to take care of themselves as independent adults. Most have never been equipped with the personal knowledge and skills to even find the resources that could help them.

Less than 3% earn a college degree by age 26.

Think back on a time when you were dealing with a personal or family issue--maybe you were facing the loss of a loved one, a sibling was critically ill in the hospital, or you were going through a nasty breakup. During that time, did you find it much more difficult to focus at work or in school?
For kids growing up in foster care, there’s always something much bigger on their minds drawing focus away from schoolwork. The instability and trauma these children are facing, combined with unmet mental health needs and high rates of learning differences, provides massive barriers to education; only 53% graduate high school--compared to 83% of the general population. They are at the greatest risk of dropping out of school of any student group--3 times greater than low-income children less than 3% earn a college degree by 26.

Only 50% find employment by age 24.

Half of all foster youth who age out of the system are able to find a job that can support them. Those who do find employment tend not to earn much money. Those same obstacles to learning that cause so many foster youth to drop out of school are leaving these children undereducated and unqualified for jobs. High risk for substance abuse, crime victimization, and being preyed upon by human traffickers leave many unable to even seek employment.

60% of young women who age out end up in the sex industry.

With low prospects of employment and few career skills, many turn to the sex industry, to support themselves. Sex work is a familiar avenue for many of these young women; 60% of all sex trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system.
Human traffickers are known to prey upon foster youth, who are easy targets because they struggle with feeling unloved and unwanted and lack the support systems to protect them. The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 years old. For many of these young women who age out of foster care, entering the sex industry is only a return to what they’ve known in their youth.

70% of young women are pregnant by 21.

Given the high risk of sexual exploitation in this group, it’s unsurprising, yet deeply troubling, that 70% of these young women who age out of foster care become pregnant by 21. These young women are barely able to survive on their own--let alone raise children with so little support. Despite the efforts of these young mothers, these pregnancies often only perpetuate the intergenerational poverty and neglect that sent them into the foster care system in the first place.

25% of youth who age out are dealing with PTSD

Compared to 4% of the general population, 25% of foster youth who age out of the system are dealing with unaddressed PTSD. The vast majority of foster youth enter the system because of abuse or neglect, but even for those who have not been exposed to trauma, the foster care system can be an extremely traumatizing place. Uncertainty, a lack of healthy and stable relationships with adults, and the risk of abuse within foster care leaves many children with untreated PTSD after leaving the system.
Mental health care is the greatest unmet need for foster youth; 80% of foster youth experience significant mental health issues compared to 18-22% of the general population.
Most foster homes--as well as the foster care system in general--are simply not equipped to support youth facing mental health problems; therefore, traumatized foster youth are never given the resources and individual attention needed to heal. When these children leave the foster care system, their unmet mental health needs remain unmet and prevent them from reaching their full potential.

25% will be incarcerated within 2 years of aging out.

The "foster care to prison pipeline"
is swallowing up unprecedented numbers of foster youth into the criminal justice system; 1 in 4 foster youth go to prison after aging out of foster care.
Being labelled a “foster child” plants powerful preconceptions in the minds of every person these children interact with--foster parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and especially criminal justice practitioners. In many cases, foster youth are viewed as more dangerous and volatile than other kids, and people treat them as such; for example, instead of mediating and de-escalating when a fight breaks out in a foster home, the police get called and the child receives a label that can be even harder to shake: juvenile delinquent.
Certain groups of foster youth are at greater risk of incarceration; foster youth placed in group homes ar2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated, 90% of youth with 5 or more foster placements will enter the criminal justice system, and Black foster youth--who are already vastly over-represented in the foster care system--are at greater risk for incarceration as well.
It’s easy for people who interact with foster youth to see some of their destructive behaviors without understanding the driving force behind them--that these children are struggling with intense emotional turmoil and trauma, and maladaptive behaviors are often attempts at coping with the loss and fear they’re experiencing. Lashing out and behaving irrationally are not signs that these are bad kids who need to be punished; they’re signs that these children need compassion and guidance to find more productive ways to deal with their traumatic circumstances.
Systems are not in place to effectively care for foster youth while they are in the system, nor to put them in a position for successful independence when they leave the system. Aging out should not be an option for foster youth who have not been prepared to care for and support themselves. The outcomes speak volumes.
Aging out is not an option at House of Providence. The children we care for are supported and allowed to heal on their own timeline. Explore our website to learn more about our mission and find out how you can get involved!