Challenges for Foster Youth

According to the Administration of Children and Families, there are over 391,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States.
Circumstances associated with a child’s removal from home and placement into care are most often reported as neglect (63%) or drug abuse by a parent (34%).  In FY 2020, approximately 244,952 children were placed into foster care for these reasons.

According to, when youth “age out” of the child welfare system with limited connections or without that support of positive, caring adults, they may have an increased risk of facing the following challenges:

child abuse, child advocacy, teens
Unstable housing or homelessness 
  • More than 1/5 of foster care youth experience homelessness for at least one day within a year of emancipation.

Lack of adequate elementary and secondary education
  • Students in foster care score 16 – 20 percentile points below their peers in state standardized testing and fewer than 60% graduate from high school.

Lack of employment and job training
  • Many lack the skills required to hold a steady job, or the incentive and academic preparation to attend a college or training program.
Problems with physical health, behavioral health and general well-being
  • 25% of 19-year-old former foster care youth reported a higher incidence of health problems then non-foster care youth in a comparison study.
  • 1/3 of foster care youth had mental health disorders including depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, etc.

Lack of access to health care
  • Some states offer Medicaid for youth until 21 years of age, but others may terminate eligibility for Medicaid and other forms of public assistance earlier.
Justice system involvement
  • Youth emancipating from foster care may be at greater risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system due to lack of support networks, low employment skills and unstable living arrangements.

Lack of social connections 
  • Permanent relationships with positive adults are a powerful protective factor against negative outcomes and can provide critical support to youth as they transition to adulthood.