Current Conditions In Foster Care And Its Effects On Youth


The Foster Care System is an important system we implement in the United States. Children in need of homes and help happen all over the United States and all times. But what really goes on when a child enters Foster Care? Is our system helping them or hurting them? What happens to the youth who enter the system and age out? This paper will show how the current environment of fostered youth and those who age out of the system are affecting their outcomes in life. It will touch upon problems and possible solutions to make a difficult process achieve higher success rates.

Problems in Foster Care

Concurrent Planning

It started in the 1970s. Children who were put into the Foster Care system had no plan for their future. Many were moved around and around, lost in the system. In 1980 the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act was passed. It was not so long after that, that concurrent planning was created. The idea behind concurrent planning is that once a child enters the system two things happen. First if the possibility for the child to return home at some point is obtainable that will be one end goal for the child. Second the child will be placed with a family that will be the child’s caregivers with the potential for adoption. One major positive of concurrent planning is that speeds up the process so that a child can find permanency and stability quickly. Concurrent planning prevents multiple moves of children and helps a child attach to a caregiver without confusion. But there is a negative. Sometimes reunited a child with their biological parents can take time. While families who wish to adopt go through the process of loss if a child is in the end able to be reunited.

Removing a child is a very serious decision. “Removal is a deeply upsetting and life-shattering experience for children and parents alike. Children are suddenly placed into a foreign environment, often with strangers, without knowing why or when they will see their parents again. Removal 'traumatizes children in complex ways,' as 'it upsets all aspects of that child's life . . . It abruptly disrupts his attachment to his primary caregiver, and it thrusts the child into a foreign system: foster care.' 

Moreover, concurrent planning is costly. Sometimes a child is taken away and the only problem the parents had were a lack of financial stability. Their child is then taken away and given to family along with resources to support that child. “As expressed by one New York City parent who felt it was unfair that the agency was helping the foster parent find housing to live with her children: The agency moved this [foster parent] three times, and every time the apartment's getting bigger . . . But you can't help the biological mother who's showing you that she wants her kids? If they would have done that for me in the first place, I wouldn't be in the situation that I'm in now, and I'd have my kids.” In a perfect world concurrent planning would work because the system would be able to supply money and resources to help both parties out. It is also financially taxing because they for concurrent planning to implemented correctly there should be two case workers per case.

Lastly concurrent planning is causing concern when it comes to the foster parents. Foster parents in concurrent planning must sign off on two possible outcomes: the child reunited with their parents or becoming permanent caregivers of the child. They must also support the child/parent relationship and even council the parents to help them become better for their child. This can cause tension for the parents who wish to have their child back with the foster parents who wish to adopt. Also, it can become a very painful process for the foster parents if they grow attached to the child in their care.

Health Care

Children over all have had a statistical increase in mental health issues. It is even more so with children who need to enter the foster care system. “As a result of the complicated relationships among the court system, child protective services, and caregivers (i.e., biological, kinship, and/or foster caregivers) and the high volume of health-, behavior-, and development-related services children in care need, the services they receive tend to be fragmented and problem driven. On top of these challenges, children involved with the child welfare system have been exposed to trauma, and often more than one form of trauma.” () What this tells us is that for youth in the foster system the primary care they are given is not enough. They need something individualized so that their trauma may be treated appropriately. Youth in the foster care system are aging out when they turn eighteen and finding they have no coping skills to deal with the real world. They haven’t dealt with the trauma of being in the system or the trauma they experienced before the system and they are finding themselves in less then ideal situations. Having the appropriate care, something that involves all aspects of health care not just physical, could in fact go a long way in helping these youth not just while they are in foster care but when they age out as well.

Aging Out

When a child hits adulthood it can be a time of learning about one’s self, making mistakes, and growing into the person they will be for the rest of their lives. Because of this a young adult often relies on familiar support both financially and emotionally. With out this it can be hard for a young adult to continue by getting a postsecondary education or find a vocational calling. It is even harder for a young adult who is fresh out of the foster care system. When a youth in foster care ages out there is a lack of support and resources for them. “Having a stable living environment is critical for academic success and healthy development of youth. Previous research has documented that youth experiencing homelessness generally tend to report lower test scores, learning disabilities, repeat grades, or higher dropout rates.” 

When these youth are aging out of the system, they are forced out into a world with basically nothing but the mindset that they don’t want to be in the system anymore. This can lead to problematic behavior. Unplanned pregnancies, addictions, homelessness, unemployment, and inability to get a postsecondary education are all symptoms of the lack of resources these youth are given upon aging out.

Post-Secondary Education

Foster care youth very rarely see their dreams of going on to a postsecondary education come true. “Unlike other underserved groups (e.g., low-income students, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities), YFFC — who cut across a number of these social identities at disproportionate rates — remain on the peripheries of national student success discourse.”

Solutions to Problems in Foster Care

Youth Advisory Boards

“Historically, these young people “age out” of their respective state systems at 18 years old (the legal “age of majority”) in spite of a continued need for support and difficulty transitioning to independence”.

Individualized Health Care

A solution to the lack of health care is still in its planning stages, but an idea for individualized primary care that connects physical health with mental health would be most beneficial to those in the foster care system. “In sum, integrated primary care is held up as the gold standard for children involved in the child welfare system, but little guidance has been provided on how to operationalize this recommendation.” 


The current conditions of the youth in the foster care system and those who are aging out are less then ideal. In foster care children are dealing with being given only the basic of health care while struggling to understand their fate and who will be their caregiver. Once reaching the age of 18 they are even worse off lacking resources and knowledge of how to become independent and successful.


  • Forenza, B., & Happonen, R. G. (2015). A Critical Analysis of Foster Youth Advisory Boards in the United States. Child & Youth Care Forum, 45(1), 107–121. doi:10.1007/s10566-015-9321-2
  • Forenza, B. (2017). Awareness, Analysis, Engagement: Critical Consciousness Through Foster Youth Advisory Board Participation. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 35(2), 119–126. doi:10.1007/s10560-017-0515-3
  • Johnson, R. M. (2019, October 24). The State of Research on Undergraduate Youth Formerly in Foster Care: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Advance online publication.
  • Lamminen, L. M., McLeigh, J. D., & Roman, H. K. (2020, January 16). Caring for Children in Child Welfare Systems: A Trauma-Informed Model of Integrated Primary Care. Practice Innovations. Advance online publication.
  • LIPP, C. (2018). Fostering Uncertainty?: A Critique of Concurrent Planning in the Child Welfare System. Family Law Quarterly, 52(1), 221–243.Retrieved from sih&AN=136472187&scope=site
  • Rosenberg, R., & Kim, Y. (2017). Aging Out of Foster Care: Homelessness, Post-Secondary Education, and Employment. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 12(1), 99–115. doi:10.1080/15548732.2017.1347551
16 December 2021
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