There are numerous reasons that a child comes into foster care. Families may be in crisis and unable to raise their children due to issues such as poverty, substance abuse, loss of a job, mental illness, homelessness, or incarceration. Often these children have been removed from their parents because they are unsafe, abused, or neglected.
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is committed to raising awareness of the issues within foster care, as well as the important statistics within the foster care system that are essential in understanding the gravity of the topic.
General Foster Care Statistics in the U.S.
- On any given day, there are nearly 440,000 children in foster care in the United States.
- In 2018, nearly 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
- The average age of children entering foster care is eight.
- In 2018, one-third of children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color.
Foster Care numbers are up for the fifth straight year. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attributes these rising numbers to increased drug use across the United States. AFCARS data show that the primary reason for entering care was neglect, followed by parents’ drug use. Overall, children usually have multiple reasons for entry, as neglect can be caused by a parent’s drug use, for example.
Challenges Children Face in Foster Care
Although removing children from unsafe environments is the best alternative, children in foster care can face many challenges. Being away from family and familiar surroundings can be frightening. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. Some of the specific challenges of foster care include:
- On average, a child in foster care is moved three times over the course of placement. Some are moved more than 10 times.
Children placed in a traditional foster care model are subjected to frequent moves and may only have short notice before he or she is moved. Frequent moves make it difficult for children to experience stability and a sense of permanency. When children are moved from one foster location to another it’s difficult for them to build long-term relationships. If the locations are far from their biological family, they’re unable to build family connections. This constant movement also means that children have to change schools, resulting in missing classes and losing friends.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois has a unique model of care that provides foster children with stability. They live in single-family homes with up to five other children and are raised by full-time, professionally trained Foster Parents. The secure living situation ensures that changes in placement or school districts are not affected.
- There is not a lot of national data available on siblings in foster care, but estimates indicate that well over half of children in foster care nationwide have one or more siblings also in care. Some sources state that as many as 75 percent of these foster children are placed apart from one or more of their siblings in the traditional foster care model, usually because a single family can’t accommodate them.
Research has demonstrated that keeping siblings together in foster care when possible has multiple benefits. Children that were kept with their siblings had a more positive and long-lasting relationship compared to those who were separated. Biological siblings who are in touch or raised together have higher self-esteem, social support, stronger relationships, and more successful professional lives as adults.
Keeping siblings together is one of the ways the SOS Illinois model of care differs from traditional models. Up to three sibling groups (depending on the size of the group, can live together in single-family homes in a village setting that can accommodate up to six children with professionally-trained, full-time Foster Parents.
- Only about half of youth raised in foster care end up finishing high school. And less than 3 percent graduate from a 4-year college.
More than 34 percent of children in traditional foster care changed schools five times or more while in foster care, and nearly 18 percent of them were absent from school for at least one month due to a change in their foster care situation.
The stability provided with the SOS Illinois model of care ensures that children are not constantly moved. Approximately 98 percent attend 90 percent or more days of school. The SOS Illinois model also regularly achieves a 100 percent high school graduation rate, with more than 75 percent of graduates pursuing a college degree.
- Approximately 23,000 youth age-out of traditional foster care each year without positive familial supports or any family connection at all.
The results can be devastating. Without the support that comes from a family or a stable connection, these youth face really tough odds. Many will end up with chemical dependencies, criminal records, or pregnancies at a young age. Few will graduate college.
SOS Illinois is Changing the Statistics for Children in Foster Care
Children who live in an SOS Illinois Village can always come “home,” even after they graduate from school.
The innovative approach of SOS Illinois Children’s Village has provided a safe, stable, loving and nurturing home for thousands of children for more than 30 years. The model of care has made it possible to defy many of the negative statistics and helped children and youth transition to a fulfilling life after foster care.
Support our innovative approach to foster care by making a gift today or joining our monthly giving program, Dream Makers, to ensure we have the resources we need all year long to provide top-notch programs and services to siblings in foster care and at-risk families.