Foster youth numbers declined, but youth of color remain overrepresented, report finds
The number of foster youth in California decreased over the course of 15 years, but youth of color remain overrepresented, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy and research organization. Researchers found that the Covid-19 pandemic, in part, led to the decrease in foster youth cases.
There were more than 147,000 foster youth ages 14 to 21 nationwide in 2021, a drop from over 271,000 in 2006. In California, 35% of all foster youth were age 14 or over in 2006. By 2021, the number decreased to 26%. In part, researchers attribute the drops in foster youth to the Covid-19 pandemic and lower reporting of cases.
Additionally, youth of color remain overrepresented in foster care in California. Latino youth made up 40% of the foster care system in 2006; by 2021, they made up 53%. This increase aligns with a rise in the general Latino population in the state during the same timeframe.
The number of Black foster youth decreased between 2006 and 2021 from 30% to 20% of the foster youth population. But in the general population in the state, Blacks represented 7% of the population in 2006 and 5% in 2021, indicating an over-representation in the foster care system.
The report also provided insight into why foster youth enter the system. In California and nationwide, neglect has become increasingly cited as the entry reason.
“Because neglect is the most frequent reason young people enter foster care,” the report authors wrote, “state and federal leaders must examine the role of underlying issues of poverty in these cases and focus on strengthening families and communities to reduce the need for child removals.”