Foster Care 101

Major Decisions Such As Preferences and Siblings

Setting Preferences

A major decision for prospective foster parents is how to think through what type of child to take in. A common misperception is that children in the foster care system are all older or just one race or gender.

Ages of Foster Children

First, as you can see in the data below published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are nearly as many infants entering the foster care system as children ages 11–18.

Gender Mix of Foster Children

Next, Health and Human Services reports there are nearly an equal percentage of boys and girls, as you can see in the data below.

Racial Make-Up of Foster Care

As for race and heritage, no one race dominates at a national level, as you can see in the data below. Furthermore, the racial make-up of children in the foster care system often varies region-to-region.

That said, these numbers likely won’t reflect the local population demographics. In many areas, families of some races are more likely to be involved in the foster care system, which may reflect an underlying bias of mandatory reporters, law enforcement, social workers and judges.

Just as foster care systems are made up of a variety of races, many foster parents won’t be the same race as their foster child. As we’ll show in a future lesson, foster parents can practice approaches like “cultural socialization” and “preparation for bias” training to bridge gaps.

Taking Siblings

Another factor to consider is whether you’re comfortable welcoming siblings into your home. While this may require more effort and resources than fostering a single child, there’s compelling data that foster children do better when living with a sibling.

Below is retrospective data on teacher perceptions of 1,700 foster children, divided between whether foster siblings were “split” (all lived separately), “splintered” (some siblings remained together) or “together” (all siblings lived together). Teachers were 40% more likely to have a positive perception of foster children who lived with their siblings than foster children separated from their siblings.

The same dataset showed that foster parents regard their foster children as “being more a part of this family” when siblings were kept together. A team from the University of Texas noticed a related phenomenon in their study of over 23,000 foster children: children separated from their siblings were nearly twice as likely to eventually be “displaced” or removed from their foster home.