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Celebrate National Foster Care Month by better understanding the system’s scope and impact, according to the numbers

Of the more than 368,000 children in foster care, 29 percent are teenagers. This statistic is just one of many that demonstrates the system’s impact. This month, join us in better understanding foster care as we celebrate May as National Foster Care Month.

The year was 1988.

And for the first time in America’s history, the White House issued a proclamation declaring May to be National Foster Care Month (NFCM).

“The aim of all foster care must be the establishment … of a sense of permanence and belonging,” the official order read. “To accomplish this goal, many more happy and successful families must be willing to step forward and offer to share heart and home with children desperately longing for both.”

Much about foster care has evolved in the nearly four decades since that declaration first aimed to increase national awareness about the system and those it served. Yet one thing remains so unchanged that it comprised the first sentence in this year’s White House proclamation honoring the month: “Children in foster care deserve to grow up in safe and loving homes that help them reach their full potential.”

Currently, those deserving children and youth in care total more than 368,000. While that one number helps demonstrate foster care’s continued importance, it is just one statistic representing the real children, youth, and families affected.

Here are five more from 2022:

  • Four. That’s how many years the number of children and youth in foster care has decreased. While several combined factors drove this decline, much can be attributed to two main strategies: prevention efforts that reduce root-cause issues leading to separation, and a focus on supporting successful family connections either through reunification or kinship care. This progress deserves celebration, but it does not mean that caregivers are any less valued or needed, as many areas still face critical foster family shortages.
  • Fourteen. That’s the percentage of America’s child and youth population who are Black. Yet, they account for 20 percent of those entering foster care. Other communities of colors, including Indigenous children, are also overrepresented in foster care. The same is true for queer youth, with All Children-All Families reporting that 30 percent of foster youth identify as LGBTQ+. These numbers demonstrate how such factors as systemic racism and implicit bias influence how families experience foster care. Acknowledging these inequities serves as an important step in the ongoing effort to address them, as does recognizing that none of these factors are the child or youth’s fault or under their control.  
  • Twenty-nine. That’s the percentage of foster youth who are 13 years or older. Children of all ages deserve homes. Fortunately, more than ever, workers in the field are iterating that permanency is attainable for teenagers, as more emphasis continues to be placed on engaging and centering these youth.
  • However, the more than 18,500 young adults who were emancipated from foster care upon adulthood show that progress does not negate need.  States, territories, and tribes all are seeking families willing to experience the unique and wonderful rewards of welcoming teenagers into their homes.
  • 108,900. That’s the number of foster children and youth waiting for adoption. Every single kid and teenager entering care does so through no fault of their own, and each deserves a loving family. For some, that means reunification with their family of origin. But a large population still relies on adoption as their pathway out of foster care.

Each of these statistics represent a real child or youth. And for them, you could be the most important number of all. You could be the one. This National Foster Care Month, we hope to count you among the ranks of the thousands of individuals dedicated to offering children and youth the love they deserve.

*Numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number. Unless otherwise stated, all numbers are provided by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Fiscal Year 2022 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).