The number of young people leaving the U.S. foster care system without a permanent family is at an all-time high, according to a new report by The Pew Charitable Trusts' Kids Are Waiting campaign and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.
The report "Time for Reform: Aging Out and On Their Own" found that although the total number of children in foster care has decreased, the number who "age out" of the system has grown by 41% since 1998. In total, more than 165,000 young people aged out of foster care between 1998 and 2005 – nearly 25,000 in 2005 alone.
Studies have documented the serious challenges facing many youth who age out of foster care. One in four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care, 1 in 5 will become homeless, only half will graduate from high school, and less than 3 percent receive college degrees.
Based on research data and focus group interviews with youth who have aged out or will soon age out of foster care, the report provides the latest state-by-state information about youth who leave foster care. The ten states with the highest percentages of youth who age out are: Virginia, Maine, Illinois, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington DC, Kansas, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and California. Those states, plus Maryland, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Ohio all had more than 10% of their total foster care population "age out" of the system without a permanent family.
Further, the report found that youth who age out of foster care have spent nearly five years in the system. The national average time in foster care for all children and youth is 2.5 years.