Facts & Data Resources

Foster children can face bleak outcomes

ProKids volunteers and staff work every day to break the vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect. This advocacy leads to some powerful outcomes, despite the overwhelming odds.

How Many Children Are Abused and Neglected?

  • The United States has one of the worst records of child abuse and neglect among industrialized nations. Source.
  • 3,533,597 children were involved in investigations of abuse and neglect in 2018 in the U.S. That’s about 48 children out of every 1,000 children. Source.
  • In Ohio, that included 110,550 children, an increase of 7.8% since 2014. Source.
  • 1,770 children were killed through abuse and neglect in 2018.  Nearly 50% were babies, under 1 year old. Source.
  • Each year, about 1 in 6 children suffer maltreatment from their caregivers. Source.
  • The U.S. has one of the worst records among industrialized nations — losing an average of between 4 and 6 children every day to child abuse and neglect. Source
  • In 2018, at any one time, more than  400,000 children were in foster care nationally. Source.
  • Children who have been abused are more likely to be abused again. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What About Children in Foster Care?

More than half of Ohio’s children in foster care will have to change homes during their case. Source.

50% of siblings are not placed together. If children are placed with siblings they are more likely to have a permanent home sooner. Source.

Children placed without their siblings are more likely to be moved to another foster home. Source.

60% of Ohio’s foster children under the age of 5 spend at least one birthday in foster care. Source.

The national trend is that children are younger when they enter foster care. Source.

In 2018, 47% of children in the child protection system are White, 21% are Black and 20% are Hispanic. Source. 

These rates are disproportionate compared to the racial makeup of the U.S. population. Source.

11% of Ohio’s children who were placed in a permanent home return to foster care within a year. Source. 

Nationally, in 2018, 28% of the children are in care for longer than 2 years. Source.

In 2018, nearly 33% of these children nationally were with relatives and about 50% were in foster homes. Source.

About 50% of children nationally leave foster care to be reunited with their parents. About 25% were adopted and 7% “aged out” or were emancipated directly from foster care. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What Are the Consequences?

80% of foster children have mental health issues and 25% of foster children have 3 or more chronic health conditions. Source.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder afflicts 20% of returning Iraqi war veterans, 11% of Afghanistan veterans and 10% of Desert Storm veterans. Source.

By comparison:

  • PTSD afflicts 42% of those children who are physically abused
  • PTSD afflicts 64% of those children who are sexually abused
  • 18% of foster children are diagnosed with PTSD despite having experienced neither physical or sexual abuse. This is the impact of being exposed to domestic violence or community violence. Source.

Our children are impacted by  Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs and we are learning more all the time about the long-term impact. Research has shown that 14% of Ohio’s children suffer from 3 or more of these experiences. Many of them are foster children.  Learn more here.

We’ve also learned that a toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent or prolonged adversity. This can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems and can increase the risk of stress-related disease and cognitive impairment into adulthood. Source.

In one study, 80% of 21-year-olds who reported childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder. Source. 

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

How Does Poverty Impact Our Children?

At the end of 2019, 4 in 10 Cincinnati children live in poverty. That’s higher than the national rate of children living in poverty. Source.

Research has shown that children raised in poverty are 46 times more likely to be placed in foster care. Source.

Countless studies demonstrate that poverty is especially harmful to children in the early years of their lives. They are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions. They are more likely to repeat a grade, to be expelled or suspended, and are eventually more likely to drop out of school.  Source.

While poverty does not cause neglect, poverty — especially when combined with risk factors such as substance abuse and mental health problems, can increase the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What About the Impact of Domestic Violence?

More than 15 million children in the U.S. live in homes where domestic violence has happened at least once. Source.

Exposure to domestic violence in childhood can significantly alter children’s DNA, aging them 7-10 years.  Source. 

Children exposed to domestic violence by the age of 5 have IQs about 8 points lower than unexposed children. To put this in perspective, consider that chronic lead exposure decreases a child’s IQ by only 3-4 points.  Source.

Children who’ve experienced domestic violence are 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.  Source.

Children raised in violent homes are 74 times more likely to commit other crimes against other persons than children who were not.  Source. 

Children, exposed to domestic violence before the age of 5, experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) at a higher rate than Iraqi War and Vietnam War veterans combined.  Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What About the Impact of Heroin Addiction?

In 2017, the rate of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse rose for the 6th consecutive year. Source.

In Ohio, about half of the children entering foster care involved parental drug abuse. And 28% of those cases involved opiates.  Source.

70% of children in custody under the age of 1 had parents who had used opiates. Source.

Because relapse is so common (85% within a year of recovery), children are staying longer in foster care. Source.

In 2017, Ohio was one of the states reporting the largest increases (29%) in the rate of parental drug abuse leading to children coming into custody. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What can prevention do?

Prevention can control healthcare costs. Because of the link between ACEs and chronic illnesses from depression to diabetes, preventing these experiences in childhood reduces lifelong healthcare costs. Source. 

Prevention can encourage a better educated and more productive workforce. Because a young child’s brain reaches 90% of its growth by age 5, trauma at a young age can permanently alter its architecture and chemistry. This impacts their ability to learn. Source.

For older children, abuse and neglect decreases their cognitive functioning, leads to poor academic performance and increases the likelihood of behavior problems and mental illness. Source.

In addition, children who experience multiple childhood ACEs are more likely to miss school, putting them at risk for dropping out of high school. Source.

Prevention increases the likelihood that the cycle of abuse and neglect is broken, helping future generations grow up without these risk factors. Children who spend their childhood without a safe, permanent, nurturing home are more likely to harm their own children. This means that the costs we’ve talked about continue to multiply. Source.

What About the Impact on Education?

Overall impact

Students in foster care are one of the most educationally vulnerable populations of youth. On average, these students are further behind academically than when they entered the foster care system. Source.

The average child in foster care moves two times a year, which often results in a school change. Children are estimated to lose 4 to 6 months of academic progress per move, which puts most foster care children years behind their peers. Source.

Foster children are 2 times more likely to be absent from school than other students. Source. 

34% of 17-18 year olds in foster care have experienced 5 or more school changes. Source.

If habitual attendance is not established by third grade, the child is not likely to be reading by third grade. If a child is not reading by third grade, when school switches from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn, they are significantly less likely to graduate. Children who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to drop out of high school, reducing their earning potential and chances for long-term success. Source.

17- and 18-year-old foster youth are 2 times more likely to have an out-of-school suspension than other students. Source.

17- and 18-year-old foster youth are 3 times more likely to be expelled than other students. Source. 

Researchers have found that youth in foster care graduate at relatively low rates and are less likely to complete high school than their non-foster care peers. Source.

  • Only 50% graduate from high school by age 18.
  • Only 20% of those who complete high school will go to college.

On average, 16-17 year olds in foster care have a 7th grade average reading level. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What About Young Children?

Infants and young children are the fastest growing and largest population of children in the foster care system. The trauma of abuse and neglect and the chronic instability of the foster care system is disastrous to a baby’s healthy development and future wellbeing.

25% of all new admissions in foster care are infants under the age of 1. Source.

39% of abused foster care children under the age of 1 suffered abuse within the first month of their life. Source.

88% of children who suffered abuse within the first month suffered abuse in their first week of life. Source.

1/3 of the infants discharged from the child welfare system re-enter care. Source. 

50% of young foster children exhibit developmental delays, which is 4- to 5-times higher than the general population. Source.

Children exposed to domestic violence by the age of 5 have IQs about 8 points lower than unexposed children. To put this in perspective, consider that chronic lead exposure decreases a child’s IQ by only 3-4 points. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What Happens When Foster Children Reach 18 or ‘Age Out’ ?

About 110 youth age out of the Hamilton County Job & Family Services foster care system each year. Source.

Estimated Cost to Hamilton County (2008-2015) = $141 million or $17.7 million/year

  • The total costs associated with social support services unrelated to foster care and/or child welfare (e.g., emergency response, non-profit support services for persons experiencing homelessness, healthcare services, criminal justice services) combined with net economic productivity “lost” was approximately $141 million from 2008 to 2015. Source.

25% of former foster care youth are homeless within 2-4 years of aging out. Source. 

47% will experience chronic unemployment. Source.

1/3 of youth who age out have unstable housing. Source. 

71% of aging out foster care females will become pregnant by age 21. Source.

57% of aging out foster care females will be arrested by age 21. Source.

31% of aging out foster care males will be arrested by age 21. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What About Specific Populations?

Compared to the number of African-American children in the general population, twice as many African-American children are in foster care. Source.

While federal studies indicate that child abuse and neglect is actually lower for Black families, 33% of kids in foster care are Black despite that only 15% of the child population is Black. Source.

LGBTQ youth are also over-represented in foster care and many report entering care after experiencing family rejection because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Source. 

  • 65% of homeless LGBTQ youth reported having been in a child welfare placement at some point in the past. Source. 

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What is the Connection Between Foster Care and Crime?

Children who have experienced abuse are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activities. Source.

14% of all men in U.S. prisons — and 36% of all women prisoners — were abused as children. That is about twice the rate as in the general population. Source.

Today, Ohio incarcerates roughly 50,440 people at an average cost of $67.84 per inmate per day. Source.

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What is the Financial Impact on Our Nation?

$220 million– daily cost of child abuse and neglect. Source for this entire section.

  • $80 billion– annual cost of child abuse and neglect (2012)
    • “for investigations, for foster care. Medical and mental health treatment. And later for special education, juvenile and adult crime, chronic health problems, and other costs across the life span.”
  • Direct Cost- $33,333,619,510 in 2012:  including hospitalization of injured children and the mental health costs of treating victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and emotional and physical neglect. In addition, there are costs of operating a child welfare system that is responsible for receiving reports of suspected abuse and neglect, screening and investigating reports, providing in-home services to families substantiated for abuse and neglect, and providing out-of-home care for children removed from abuse or neglectful homes. Lastly, direct costs include the cost of law enforcement. Police will sometimes participate in child maltreatment investigations and arrest perpetrators who not only maltreat their children but violate state criminal law. Prosecutors work for both the child welfare system and the criminal system and child maltreatment cases are heard in family and juvenile court as well as criminal court.
    • Acute Medical Treatment – $2,907,592,094
      • based on the cost of treating trauma or joint disorders for children experiencing serious harm)
    • Mental Health – $1,153,978,175
      • Physical abuse- $323,000
      • Emotional Abuse- $148,500
      • Sexual Abuse- $135,300
      • Emotional Neglect- $193,400
    • Child Welfare System— $29,237,770,193
    • Law Enforcement—$34,279,048
  • Indirect Cost- $46,926,791,578 in 2012:  including costs associated with the consequences or impact of maltreatment of children. As a result of being victims of abuse and neglect, many children require special education services as well as early intervention services to manage developmental delays. Maltreated children are more likely to engage in juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behavior. As a result, child maltreatment leads to additional housing, juvenile justice and adult criminal justice expenditures.
    • Special Education—$826,174,734
    • Early Intervention—$247,804,537
    • Emergency/Transitional Housing— $1,606,866,538
    • Mental Health & Health Care—$270,864,199
    • Juvenile Delinquency—3,416,149,283
    • Lost Worker Productivity—$32,724,767,699

Note that our links to sources are accurate at the time we post them. If you encounter a link that does not work, or have questions about the statistics we use, please contact ProKids.

What is the impact of a CASA Volunteer?

The National CASA/GAL Association for Children is committed to using fact-based knowledge, building toward becoming a data-informed, evidence-based organization. Many independent academic studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of best-interest advocacy and the CASA/GAL network. Read more.

Statistics shared in the 2020 Call for Community

Teen parents are less likely to have the support they need.

Their children are more likely to be abused and neglected.

When they use drugs, kids are more likely to skip school and to develop mental health problems.

Kids who start using substances before age 15 are more likely to become addicted.

About 1 out of 6 children suffer abuse and neglect.

These children are more likely to run away and then become victims on the streets.

Abused and neglected children are 4 times more likely to develop serious mental illness.

Abused children are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activities.

71% of homeless youth have a substance abuse disorder.

1 out of 5 homeless youth are trafficked – mostly for sex.

Each year, Hamilton County receives 60,000 reports alleging child abuse and neglect.

Children are in crisis when they come into the child protection system.

ProKids comes into these children’s lives when they need a voice.

With the increasing stress in our community right now, there are more children who need all of us.

We know that trauma follows children through life.

Without intervention, behavior issues become more serious and trauma can even lead to physical illness.

Trauma changes the way a child’s brain develops.

We know these children need lots of support to regain what they have lost.

When parents are not able to live differently, the court seeks a permanent home for the children.

Ideally other family members step up and provide a safe, loving home.

Trauma may lead a child to act out in many ways, including with violence.

With the right support, children learn resilience and begin to heal.