Knowing the facts is the first step to making a difference.

Foster Youth Outcomes

An overwhelming majority of the 400,000 youth in foster care face abysmal outcomes once they age out of care. We have a multitude of laws that seek to provide foster youth the resources and supports needed to successfully transition to adulthood. Yet, only half graduate high school, and less than three percent go on to earn a college degree. Instead, more than half end up homeless, incarcerated, or on welfare within two years of aging out of care.

These painfully poor outcomes are almost guaranteed by widespread home and school instability, and the resulting revolving door of inconsistent adults who are not invested in the youths’ futures. Foster youth move homes and transfer schools an average of 6 times, losing up to 6 months of learning after each transfer.

By third grade, over 80% of foster youth are behind at least one grade level. Stunted brain development caused by multiple traumatic incidents results in a majority of foster youth requiring special education supports. Unfortunately, many youth are never assessed for special education because of school instability. Foster youth experience higher levels of school push out than their peers because schools do not understand how to support youth affected by trauma, and these youth do not have adults who advocate for them in school. Foster youth are three times more likely than their peers to be expelled from their schools. By the time they reach 11th or 12th grade, foster youth have an average reading level of 7th grade, lacking the basic literacy skills for higher education admissions and employment. While over 80 percent of foster youth want to attend college or university, the inadequacies of the foster care system deprive them the supports to transform those hopes into reality.

There is not one solution or formula that will work for all of our foster youth; however, the Foster Youth Academies offer an innovative and holistic model that emphasizes and supports education while promoting meaningful connections as our youth transition into adulthood.

Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect (April 2012)

A Prevent Child Abuse America Report by Richard J. Gelles and Staci Perlman

Prevent Child Abuse America in 2012 published its third report estimating the costs of child abuse and neglect. This latest report, by Richard J. Gelles and Staci Perlman, estimate $80 Billion in total annual costs of child abuse and neglect for 2012.

The calculation uses the same direct and indirect cost categories as the previous estimate, Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, Wang and Holton, Prevent Child Abuse America (2007).  The specific estimate is as follows:

Direct cost: $33,333,619,510

  • Actual medical treatment- treating trauma or joint disorders: $2,907,592,094
  • Mental health care system- treating physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and educational neglect: $1,153,978,175.
  • Child welfare system- public child welfare expenditures: $29,237,770,193.
  • Law enforcement- police services for intervention for child maltreatment $34,279,048

Indirect cost: $46,926,791,578

  • Early intervention- children birth to five years in the child welfare system require early intervention services: $247,804,537
  • Special education- children with learning disorder that require special education services: $826,174,734
  • Emergency/Transitional housing- abused children are disproportionately more likely than their peers to experience adult homelessness: $1,606,866,538
  • Mental health and health care- cost of physical and mental health care for victims of physical or sexual abuse: $270,864,199.
  • Juvenile delinquency- administrative costs associated with arrest, adjudication, and incarceration: $3,416,149,283.
  • Adult criminal justice costs- 13% of all violent crime can be attributed to early child maltreatment: $32,724,767,699.
  • Lost worker productivity- mistreated children are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed: $7,834,164,589.

Total cost = direct cost $33,333,619,510 + indirect cost $46,926,791,578 = $80,260,411,087

Reference: Gelles, Richard J., & Perlman, Staci (2012). Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect. Chicago IL: Prevent Child Abuse America, available at http://www.preventchildabuse.org/images/research/PCA_COM2012.pdf

Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics, compiled June 2015

Although the U.S. is ranked first in gross domestic product globally,[i] it is:

  • 26th of 29 among developed nations based on measures of child welfare.[ii]
  • 25th of 27 among developed nations based on the rate of child deaths from abuse and neglect.[iii]

How many children are abused and neglected in the U.S.?

  • In 2013, 3.9 million children were referred to Child Protective Services (CPS).[iv]
  • In 2013, 679,000 children were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect.[v]

What type of maltreatment did these children suffer?

  • 80% were victims of neglect.vi
  • 18 % were victims of physical abuse.vii
    * Children that suffer from multiple forms of abuse were counted for each.

Who suffered maltreatment?

  • Children age three and under are most likely to be victims of abuse and neglect. viii
  • 34% of child victims are 3 years old or younger. ix

How many children in the U.S. died from abuse and neglect? Do States release this information?

  • There were an estimated 1,520 child fatality victims in 2013 due to maltreatment in the U.S.,x an average of 29 children per week.
  • 74% of child fatalities were under three years old. xi
  • 46.5% were less than one year old. xii
  • 37% of states restrict information on child deaths and near deaths. xiii
  • 79% of child fatalities involved parents. xiv

How much does child abuse and neglect cost in the U.S.?

  • Annual estimated direct cost of medical care for child victims of abuse and neglect in the U.S.: xv $33,333,619,510
  • Annual estimated direct AND indirect cost of child abuse and neglect in the U.S.: xvi $80,260,411,087

What kind of legal assistance is provided for these children?

  • 39% of states do not mandate legal representation for children in abuse and neglect proceedings.xvii

What happens to former foster children?

  • Approximately 402,378 children were in the foster care system as of September 30, 2013. xviii
  • 23,090 of those children aged out of foster care. xix
  • Percentage of the general population age 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree: xx  31%
  • Percentage of former foster children age 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree: xxi  3%
  • Percentage of the general population in jail or prison: xxii  <1%
  • Percentage of former foster children* incarcerated since age 17: xxiii  Males: 64%, Females: 32.5%
  • Percentage of the general population who experience homelessness over the course of a year: xxiv  <1%
  • Percentage of former foster children* who experience homelessness after aging out of the system. xxv  24%
  • Percentage of former foster children* who are unemployed one year after aging out: xxvi  61%
  • Percentage of former foster children* who are unemployed five years after aging out: xxvii  53.5%
  • Percent of foster youth who complete high school by age 18: xxviii  50%
  • Percent of foster youth who graduated high school who attend college: xxix  20%
* These percentages reflect research on foster children solely in the Midwest but are likely also indicative of the overall trends throughout the U.S. (Courtney, Dworsky)
————–[i] World Bank, World Development Indicators Database, Total GDP 2011, at 1, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (2012).[ii] Calculated from rankings in overall well-being. See UNICEF, “Child well-being in rich countries: A league table of inequality in child well-being,” Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, available at http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc11_eng.pdf (2011).[iii] UNICEF, “A league table of child maltreatment deaths in rich nations,” Innocenti Report Card 5, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, available at http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/repcard5e.pdf (2003).[iv]Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment (2013).[v]Id. at 20.[v]i Id. at 23.[v]ii Id. at 23.[v]iii Id.at 22. This statistic is not available in new report; however, “Victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 23.1 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.”
ix Percentage derived from (Table 3-5) (p. 34), Child Maltreatment (2013).
x Id. at 55. (Exhibit 4-A)
xi.Id. at 55.
xii Id at 22. (Exhibit 3-E)
xiii First Star and the Children’s Advocacy Institute, State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S., 2nd ed. (2012).
xiv Id. at 56, 61 (Table 4-4).
x[v] Gelles, Richard J., & Perlman, Staci, Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect, Chicago, IL: Prevent Child Abuse America (2012).
xvi Id. at 5.
x[v]ii First Star and the Children’s Advocacy Institute, A Child’s Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused & Neglected Children, 3d ed. at 10 (2012).
x[v]iii The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport21.pdf (September 30, 2013).
xix Id. at 3.
xx National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: 2012 (table 8), available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_008.asp?referrer=report (2012).
xxi Foster Care by the Numbers, Casey Family Programs, Sept. 2011, available at http://www.casey.org/media/MediaKit_FosterCareByTheNumbers.pdf
xxii U.S. Census Bureau. Detailed Years of School Completed by People 25 Years and Over by Sex, Age Groups, Race and Hispanic Origin; 2014. Current Population Survey. 2014 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Calculated by dividing estimated number of inmates, 231, by the confined population of 100,000. See Todd D. Minton, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2013 – Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, May 2014, available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/jim13st.pdf.[v] xxiii Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
xxiv Calculated by dividing the estimated homeless population of the U.S. over the course of a year (1.3 – 2.3 million) by the estimated total population in the U.S. (312,152,633).  See Nan P. Roman & Phyllis Wolfe, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Web of Failure: The Relationship Between Foster Care and Homelessness 4 (1995); The Urban Institute, Millions Still Face Homelessness in a Booming Economy, http://www.urban.org/publications/900050.html (2000) (last revised in 2010); U.S. PopClock Projection, http://www.census.gov/popclock/ (last visited Aug. 5, 2014).
xx[v] Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (60%) and females (62%) at age 19. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E. (2010). Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
xx[v]i Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (54%) and females (53%) at age 24. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E., Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (2010).
xx[v]ii Fostering Success in Education. National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster care. (January 2014).
xx[v]iii Id at 1.