Every May, the Children’s Bureau honors those who support children in foster care. Child welfare professionals, mentors, policymakers, family members, and foster parents are critical to providing children in foster care with safe and loving homes, where they can thrive. The Children’s Bureau provides helpful resources about topics that impact children in foster care and those who support them.
Key Facts and Statistics
Children in foster care:
There are over 391,000 children and youth in foster care.
Up to 80 percent of children in foster care have significant mental health issues, compared with approximately 18 to 22 percent of the general population.
Because of the complex traumas faced by children and youth in foster care, foster care alumni experienced posttraumatic stress disorder at a rate nearly five times higher than the general adult population.
Youth in foster care are prescribed psychotropic medications at a much higher rate (ranging from 13 to 52 percent) than youth in the general population (4 percent).
Helpful reminders for those working with children in foster care:
Investing in culturally appropriate mental health supports that recognize an individual’s identity, culture, and lived experience may improve the effectiveness of services and supports and improve long-term outcomes for children and youth.
To meaningfully address the mental health needs of children, youth, and young adults in foster care, requires a holistic approach that focuses broadly on their well-being within the contexts of home, family, school, work, and community
Youth and young adults are experts on their own lives. Empowering youth to make informed decisions about the mental health treatment and services they receive, who they receive them from, and when can help young people connect with providers and improve outcomes.
Relational permanency is fundamental to the well-being of children and youth in foster care. Stable, nurturing placements have positive impacts on children and youth’s resilience and long-term well-being.
Effective training and support for foster parents will improve retention, increase placement stability, and increase capacity to help children and youth in care navigate life’s challenges.
Children’s Bureau highlights stories from those who have been touched by foster care in some way. Their stories illustrate the importance of youth having a strong support system while in care and as they transition to adulthood. Building meaningful relationships with children in foster care not only benefits the children, but also enriches the lives of their caregivers.
Addressing the mental health needs of these children is one very important way to do that, as it allows children and their families to heal. One woman who shared her experience as a therapist and foster parent learned that “…what is important to children and healing: Giving them space, giving them patience, giving them understanding and compassion even when they are struggling” (Healing Happens Through Relationships). Children need both freedom and guidance to work through their trauma and learn how to build healthy relationships with others.
Biological parents can be part of this healing process, as well, if they are provided with the resources they need to succeed. One foster family discovered the importance of biological parents, when they temporarily took in five siblings. The foster parents began by identifying the unique needs of each child and developing a routine that fit them. Even though the children did well in their new home, as time went on, they still weren’t happy. The children missed their biological parents and needed that connection with them. Their foster parents decided to encourage regular communication with their biological parents and began including them in as many activities as possible. With the help of the foster parents and social workers, the biological parents were able to reunify with their children and replicate the routines established in the foster home. By recognizing the importance of the children’s biological parents and including them in the fostering process, the foster parents were able to give the whole family the opportunity to thrive outside the foster care system (Extending Family Support).