Projection: National Foster Care Numbers Continue to Rise in 2017

This week, The Chronicle of Social Change released a report on foster care capacity nationwide, which included a projection that the overall number of U.S. foster kids is continuing to go up.

Based on foster care totals from the 30 states that provided information, we project that the total number of children in foster care in 2017 is roughly 443,000, 3 percent more than the 2015 federal count, the last year such data was made available.

This is consistent with a trend of increased foster care numbers that started five years ago. After 14 years of decline, federal data showed that the national number of youth in foster care increased between 2012 and 2013. And the numbers continued to increase on the next two annual federal reports, drawn from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

The federal Administration for Children and Families has not indicated when it will release the next AFCARS report, which will cover fiscal 2016. Last year’s report, AFCARS #23, was released in late October.

We were able to collect recent foster care totals from 30 states. For states that did not provide a recent number, we plugged in the total for that state from the most recent AFCARS report.

This is hardly a high-minded, scientific approach. But most of the states we did not get numbers for had seen an increase between 2012 and 2015, so we felt this was a comfortable way to cast a conservative estimate.

Our projection of 443,000, would represent an increase of 3 percent from the 2015 AFCARS report and an 11 percent increase from the 2012 report.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1213 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at