Some statistics about foster care and adoption

In recent years, states have been making more of an effort to move children out of foster care faster. The number of children in foster care has been falling, and the number of adoptions has been rising. But this success story mostly applies to younger children, not teenagers.

A decade ago, children were more likely to spend years in foster care as authorities tried again and again to reunite them with their biological families. The 1997 Children and Safe Families Act called on states to terminate parental rights faster so that children would be available for adoption sooner. The idea was to give more children permanent, stable homes.

In the years since, the number of children in foster care has dropped, overall. But the number of teenagers in foster care has risen. And for teenagers in foster care, the odds are still heavily against finding a family to adopt them.

Here are some of the numbers:

Total number of children in foster care in the United States:
1998: 559,000
2005: 513,000

Number of teenagers in foster care:
1998: 180,961 (31 percent of total)
2005: 203, 382 (40 percent of total)

Number of teenagers adopted from foster care:
1998: 3,096 (8 percent of total adoptions from foster care)
2005: 5,750 (11 percent of total adoptions from foster care)

Number of teenagers considered "awaiting adoption"*:
1998: 17,719 (14 percent of all children awaiting adoption)
2005: 29,437 (26 percent of all children awaiting adoption)

Number of teenagers who emancipated, or aged out, of foster care in 2005: 24,407

*Most of the children in foster care are not considered to be "awaiting adoption." Adoption is the "case goal" of only 20 percent of the children. The case goal of some children is emancipation or long-term foster care, meaning no attempt is being made to find permanent families for those children. They will lose their foster care benefits when they get too old. In most states, young people age out when they turn 18.

Figures compiled by Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago using data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

The AFCARS report preliminary estimates for 2005 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

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