Based on the standard federal data released each year, there are about 425,000 children living in foster care. The real number might be much higher.

That figure only counts the children who were removed from home with a judge’s approval, usually to the home of a relative or foster family that assumes legal custody, at least temporarily. But new attention is being paid to a hidden foster care system, where child welfare officials talk parents into informally sending their children away without the court’s involvement.

The Imprint will continue to collect all of its coverage on the subject on this series page.


Are There Way More Kids in Foster Care Than We Think?

On this week’s podcast we discuss more plans for rethinking child welfare, universal cell phone coverage for California foster youth, and another big experiment planned for the “colorblind” approach to foster care removal decisions.



Hidden Foster Care: All of The Responsibility, None of The Resources

Outside of the traditional foster care system exists a shadow system of potentially hundreds of thousands of children removed by CPS to their relatives or family friends—without a court case, monetary support, or due process.


Advocates Say Families Providing ‘Hidden Foster Care’ Deserve More Guidance

Nevada is relying heavily on unsupported relatives to care for children its child welfare system do not believe are safe at home.


Kentucky’s Budget Shrunk. These Informal Foster Parents Were Left with Nothing.

Natasha King, 46, and her two grandchildren. Photo: J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL
Natasha King thought it would be temporary, just a few months.  When the state called in 2013 and asked if she could parent her two grandchildren, she didn’t hesitate to take in the kids she loved more than anything in the world.


How the Biden Administration Can Address Hidden Foster Care

The Biden administration will inherit a foster care system in which states report removing more than 200,000 children from their families every year.  

Joshua Gupta-Kagan, University of South Carolina School of Law
The real number is far higher, thanks to a practice that I call “hidden foster care.”

Anderson New York Illinois Safe Families Children


Faith-Based Movement to ‘Host’ Children of Struggling Families Hits Opposition in New York

In the summer of 2012, Corisma Gillespie hit a crisis point. Pregnant with her second child, the 20-year-old from the west side of Chicago had lost her job at McDonald’s. Her car was impounded, and she was about to become homeless.