Latino Uptick Fueling National Increase in Foster Youths

In a story last year, The Imprint reported on research out of California which indicated that an overall increase in the foster care rolls might be coming, in large part due to a projected increase in Latino children entering the child welfare system.

Recently released foster care data suggests that this future is perhaps already upon us.

The 2013 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) report, which went up on the Children’s Bureau site this month, marks the first report since 1999 with an increase in the number of children and youth in foster care.

The national total went up by 5,486, from 396,892 in 2012 to 402,378 in 2013. About 40 percent of that increase emanates from California: the AFCARS report attributes 2,289 new foster youths to the state. – an excellent depot of California youth-related data that should be duplicated in every other state – clocked a larger increase of 3,437 from 2012 to 2013. The difference is likely due to the fact that its numbers include foster youths between 18 and 21.

Number of children in foster care by race and ethnicitiy. Courtesy of breaks down its state foster care numbers by county, and by race. This is where significant numbers emerge on the subject, because 61percent of the 3,437 increase occurred among Latino youth.

Digging further into the figures, there are 1,382 more foster youth in Los Angeles alone. And Latino children accounted for 73 percent of the L.A. increase.

In the 28 counties which saw an increase in children and youth entering foster care, the number of Latino children and youth was also on the rise. Another eight counties actually saw a decline in overall foster youth rates, but an increase in Latino foster youth.

Some examples:

Madera County
Total increase: 106
Latino increase: 50

Riverside County
Total increase: 184
Latino increase: 73

San Bernardino County
Total increase: 602
Latino increase: 317

Santa Clara County
Total increase: 186
Latino increase: 183

Orange County
Total decrease: 32
Latino increase: 10

Is this just a California phenomenon? It’s hard to know, because few states have good data available that drills down on county and/or race.

What we do know is that the number of Latino children and youth entering foster has risen steadily now for decades. In the mid-1990s, when federal data was not as robust or representative of all states, this was the demographic breakdown of youth in foster care:

  • Black: 33 percent
  • White: 49 percent
  • Hispanic: 14 percent

In 2003, ten years before the data in this new report:

  • Black: 35 percent
  • White: 39 percent
  • Hispanic: 17 percent

In 2013:

  • Black: 24 percent
  • White: 42 percent
  • Hispanic: 22 percent

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Senior Editor John Kelly.

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