Groundbreaking Report Shows National Foster Care Population Decreased In 2020

LOS ANGELES - Nov. 10, 2020 - PRLog -- Newly released data compiled and analyzed by The Imprint, the nation's leading news outlet covering child welfare and youth justice, finds the number of foster youth in America has declined for a second straight year, while a lower percentage are identified as white, which in some states coincided with an increase in the share of foster youth who are Black.

  • the number of children placed with relatives has gone up;
  • the use of group homes has dropped;
  • and the number of days American children have spent separated from family has grown.
"Foster care in America is changing," said Imprint Publisher Daniel Heimpel. "After years of growing more white, we are seeing those numbers decrease, while in some states the proportion of Black and Native American children increases. As we prepare for a new presidential administration, these and other trends described in this report should serve as a baseline for what the nation wants to see for a child welfare system that has nearly 420,000 children in it."

This marks a third consecutive year of decline since the most recent peak of nearly 437,000 in 2017. The number of youth in care declined for more than a decade until 2012, and then spiked in the ensuing five years, fueled in part by the opioid epidemic, according to federal officials.

According to the fourth annual Who Cares reporting project, the availability of licensed foster homes took a hit in 2020, according to figures collected directly from state child welfare agencies. There were 221,706 licensed foster homes in 2019, according to state data. The total dropped to 214,479 in 2020, a decline of approximately 3.3%.

The decline in 2020 in was fueled by notable drop-off in several large states:
  • New York: -3,183 homes (22%)
  • California: -2,796 homes (8%)
  • Georgia: -1,531 homes (20%)

A new data point in the Who Cares project shows a wide range from state to state when it comes to keeping youth in the homes of people who they call family. Called "family separation," this new data point, created by the organization Fostering Court Improvement, tracks the average number of days per year that a child spends outside of a family in each state, including children who are not in foster care. Nationwide, the average number of days that children spent outside the care of their own families increased from 1 in 2010 to 1.1 in 2019.

Who Cares, which has been published since 2017, is the first public resource of its kind on foster care capacity. To execute this reporting project, The Imprint collects data directly from each state's child welfare agencies, and combines that with federal data through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). Resources available include national overviews on key indicators regarding how many children are in the foster care system and with whom they reside, a breakdown and profile by state, and featured reporting, commentary and viewpoints from state and national stakeholders in child welfare.

Who Cares 2020 is generously sponsored by iFoster, whose mission is to ensure that every child growing up outside of their biological home has the resources and opportunities they need to become successful, independent adults.

To access the full Who Cares project, visit

Free Webinar

Learn more about the data, the findings and what it all means during a free webinar with the researchers behind the project on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 1 pm Pacific/4 pm Eastern. Register here:

About Fostering Media Connections

Fostering Media Connections (FMC) is a nonprofit news organization that uses a mix of investigative, accountability and solution-oriented journalism to drive reform within the systems that serve vulnerable children, youth and their families. To do this FMC publishes a daily news site, The Imprint, and a print magazine, Fostering Families Today. Both have won numerous journalism awards.

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Tags:Foster Care, Child Welfare, Kinship Care, Foster Homes, Race And Foster Care, Child Welfare News
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Page Updated Last on: Nov 10, 2020

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