Brandon Huynh
March 6, 2022

Foster Care Across the States

Foster Youth Statistics by State (2019)

California: 11.98 per 1000 - pop. 39.5 mil

Texas: 10.7 per 1000 - pop. 29 mil          

Pennsylvania: 11.65 per 1000 - pop. 12.8 mil

New York: 8.02 per 1000 - pop. 19.45 mil

District of Columbia: 0.094 per 1000 - pop. 692,683

In this month’s article, I hope to guide you through dissecting and analyzing the numbers I have provided—let's see their significance in the context of the real world. Glancing over the statistics, you may notice some telling trends. Pennsylvania, for example, has nearly half the foster youth as Texas, but its ratio of foster youth to population is even more prominent. Then, D.C.'s numbers are minuscule and even decreasing. Its numbers are dwarfed in comparison to California, which brings about the question: do these statistics imply a shortcoming in California's system, or are these numbers inherent with its larger population?

Across the board, California maintains a high percentage of foster youth, but we can't categorize it as an outlier. Pennsylvania falls closely behind California in its ratio but holds less than a third of our population. If anything, D.C. is the most intriguing state with its sparse foster youth rates; let's take a closer look. 

There are only four states/territories, D.C. being one of them, in which children ages 0 through 18 make up less than 20% of the population. Although this certainly isn't the entire story, it is likely a factor. What's shocking is that D.C.'s foster care system receives minimal federal funding and is poorly supported. With a similar effect, Washington D.C. suffers from a lack of willing foster parents. According to WAMU: American University’s Aubrey Edwards-Luce, a senior policy attorney for the Children’s Law Center cites “...increased housing cost, experienced foster parents retiring, and changing demographics in the city” as the major contributors to this fact. Specifically, untrained foster parents are unable to care for children with mental health or behavioral issues, a group that is severely in need of guardians. Following all logic—considering the above data—Washington D.C. should have an equal if not a higher rate of foster youth in its system. The statistic is one massive outlier.

Below is a collection of statistics and comparisons across the United States, and it's interesting to analyze the data spread and differences between the five listed states. You can see the patterns and relationships: what states value prevention funds? Which has the most efficient system? Which states share similar data, and why might this be?

Some noteworthy observations of the financial distribution and reasons for leaving the system include: