More than 428,000 children are in foster care in the United States annually. While homeless, many families break up and children are placed in foster care. Conversely, young people in foster care are at higher risk of becoming homeless, both while in foster care and when they age out at 21 and financial subsidies are no longer available to foster families.

Financial subsidies for families who adopt children end at age 18. This can lead to “failed adoptions” in which young people are abandoned by their adoptive families. Left without a family or a home, and no safety net because they are legally adults outside of the protection of child welfare agencies, these young people are suddenly homeless.

The disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth who run away or are sent away from their homes due to conflicts with their foster care or adopted families are of special concern. Once on the streets, homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health issues, substance use, and even death. These risks increase for LGBTQ youth who are homeless.

National data do not identify how many children are removed from their homes because of a parent’s substance use. Although there is no single standard for how states report substance use and child neglect, many state officials have indicated that the nation’s opioid epidemic is driving a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care.


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