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Outlook for Aged-Out Foster Children Bleak

Mark Courtney

The outlook for the 30,000 foster children in the United States who “age out” of the system each year is bleak, according to a study led by University of Washington School of Social Work researcher Mark Courtney. Many have no family support.

A New York Times article citing the study said only half will be employed by the time they reach their mid ’20s. Sixty percent of men will be convicted of a crime. Four out of 10 women who were formerly foster children will be on public assistance. And only six out of 100 former foster children will be attending community college.

To read the full article click here.

Possible solutions for this problem include encouraging birth families to stay involved with foster children and using mentors to help guide newly emancipated youth.

To learn more about how social workers help visit the National Association of Social Workers “Help Starts Here” Adoptions and Foster Care Web pages by clicking here. NASW member Matt Anderson is also working on a documentary on the plight of aged-out foster children. To find out more click here to read his interview with

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  1. As a CPS Supervisor, I believe a big part of the problem is how damaged the children are by the time they come into care. In my state, and I am sure this holds the same for all others, the threshold to remove a child is very high- immediate physical risk of death or disablement, so they can be subjected to “just at the line” neglect and abuse for years, even with services, until a big disaster happens and they get removed. All too often parents are court-ordered to attend a few parenting classes, clean up the house, and the kids are returned right back without any real change and they get removed again!
    The study that cannot ethically be done is: how well off would these children be if they never entered care but were allowed to remain with abusive and/or neglectful parents? You can study children in the homes of caring parents and say outcomes are good for the children- but you can’t ethically leave children to be abused and neglected by bio family and observe their outcomes, which means the numbers aren’t really accurate and children succeeding in bio families, because you comparing healthy vs. abusive familys is already biased.
    That said- Bio families need to be held more accountable, services if children are removed need to be directed to observable change in parental behavior prior to any return home, foster parents need to be held accountable if they demand removal of children for minor reasons (happens all the times, destroys stability for kids); and of course states need to be willing to fork over the large amount of money this will cost. So it may all be just a dream….

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