Foster Youth & Education

There are 100,000 foster youth in California. What are the educational challenges for these children?

  • 43% of California’s children in foster care are moved 3 or more times, and 11 % are moved 5 or more times.
  • 30% of foster youth function below their educational grade level.
  • Half of all foster children have been held back in school.
  • Over 35% of foster youth are in special education.
  • 46% of foster youth fail to complete high school, compared with 16% of non-foster youth.
  • Fewer than 10% of foster youth enroll in college.
  • After conducting a national study of 1,087 foster care alumni, it was found that youth who had even fewer than one placement change per year were twice as likely to graduate from high school before leaving foster care.
  • Research shows that foster children who are moved often from placements are more likely to perform poorly on standardized tests in comparison to stably housed children.

What are their future prospects?

Within two to four years after emancipation:   

  • 51% of foster youth are unemployed.
  • 62% have not maintained a job for at least one year.
  • Close to 40% of foster youth receive public assistance.
  • Approximately 25% of foster youth experience homelessness.
  • One in five foster youth will be incarcerated.

Despite this dismal outlook, these children continue to have high aspirations:

  • 70% of foster youth hope to attend college.
  • 19% of foster youth intend to continue their studies beyond a college degree.
  • With the new AB12 policy change, research shows that enrollment in college is more likely due to the programs and mentorship available to foster youth until the age of 21.


Casey Family Programs Educational Outcomes Fact Sheet, available online at

US Department of Health & Human Services, AFCARS Report, available online at