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KWIC Indicator Narrative

Foster Care - Children and Youth In Care

Data Provider: NYS Office of Children and Family Services


Related Indicators:

Life Area:



Children in foster care are children and youth who are in the care and custody of the Commissioner of the local Department of Social Services on December 31 of a given year. The foster care settings for this "24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians" (U.S. DHHS, 2005) include, but are not limited to:

  • Home care: nonrelative foster family homes and pre-adoptive homes,
  • Relative care: relative foster homes,
  • Congregate care: group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, and
  • Other care: Agency Operated Boarding Homes, Group Residences, Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) and Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).

Children and Youth in Foster Care presents a "point in time" number of children in the care and custody of the Commissioner of the local Department of Social Services on December 31 of a given year and the rate per 1,000 children 0 through 21 years in the general population.

Children and Youth in Foster Care by Placement Type also presents a "point in time" number of children in a respective type of care on December 31 of a given year and the percentage per children in foster care on December 31 of a given year.


Children are placed into foster care for a wide variety of reasons including: safety issues, their families are at least temporarily unable to care for them, specialized care or treatment is needed or behavioral problems have lead to a placement. Since children in foster care make up a majority of those in out-of-home care in New York State, this measure also provides insight into the extent to which children are removed from their homes and placed in out-of- home care in New York State.

To minimize the trauma of placement to children, the court seeks to place children in a foster care setting that is least disruptive and most family-like, consistent with a child's needs. Decisions are based on the best interests of the child. The court then assumes the responsibility of continuing oversight until a permanent home is found. The court is charged with directing Child Protective Services (CPS) to implement a service plan that identifies problems to be resolved, changes in parental behavior to be achieved, services to be provided to the family, special needs of the child and services to meet these needs, visitation, and deadlines for achieving plan goals.

Regardless of the type of placement a child is in, placement in foster care presents children with change and loss, (e.g., loss of parents, siblings, school, friends and community). Many children face multiple placements, which call upon children to enter and leave multiple relationships at a time in their development when consistency and stability are paramount.


Children are placed in foster care either by order of a court (involuntary) or because their parents are willing to have them cared for outside the home (voluntary).

An involuntary placement occurs when a child has been abused or neglected (or may be at risk of abuse or neglect) by his or her parent or someone else in the household, or because a court has determined that the child is a "person in need of supervision" or a juvenile delinquent. The court orders the child removed from the home and determines the length of the placement.

A voluntary placement occurs when parents decide that they are temporarily unable to care for their child for reasons other than abuse or neglect. For example, the family is experiencing a serious medical, emotional, and/or financial problem. The parents sign a voluntary placement agreement that lists the responsibilities of the parents and the agency during the child’s placement.

In the case of a voluntary surrender, the parents voluntarily and permanently give up all parental rights and transfer "custody and guardianship" to an authorized agency.


  • In 2011, the rate of children in foster care in New York State was 3.84 per 1,000 children, birth through 21 years of age. In 2005, the foster care rate was 4.6 per 1,000 children, birth through 21 years of age.
  • The rate of children and youth in foster care in New York City is greater than the rate in Rest of State. The in-care rate for New York City in 2011 was 6.2 children per 1,000 while in Rest of State it was only 2.3 per 1,000. This pattern is consistent with that found in 2005, when 6.6 children per 1,000 were in foster care in New York City, and only 3.1 per 1,000 children and youth in Rest of State were in foster care.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. 2005. Child Maltreatment 2003. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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