Context Presentation Week 9: The Foster Care System in America

In the novel The Leavers by Lisa Ko, Deming Guo is taken into foster care after his mom Polly disappears. Eventually he’s adopted by a white suburban couple Peter and Kay, however, he does experience the foster care system of America before adoption. Through Deming’s experiences in the system readers can see his struggles that are representative of struggles that many children in foster care deal with, and the effects of those struggles.

Although foster care usually isn’t seen as a prominent part of American society, in reality over 400,000 children are in the foster care system per day. There is a large age range for foster children ranging from infants to 18 years of age, with the average age about nine years old. Children usually stay around a year in foster care, with more than half reunified with previous caretakers and a quarter adopted. Nevertheless there are around 20,000 who have to leave the system due to no adoptions/caretakers and who have reached legal adult age. Some children go from foster home to foster home with all their possessions in trash bags, an experience that can cause psychological trauma. The older children are, the smaller the chance for them to be adopted as well.

The foster care system is flawed, with limited funds and many problems that will take years to fix. Multiple sources and articles have reported serious problems such as the much higher number of children of color that enter foster care, 70% of kids end up in juvenile justice systems, or that kids in foster care are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to other children. Other outcomes include much higher rates for dropping out of school or not completing higher education such as college. Readers can see some of these issues in The Leavers such as Deming (who is renamed Daniel) struggling in school and with a gambling addiction that leaves him in heavy debt.


Ko, Lisa. The Leavers. Chapel Hill, 2017.

Julieburdick. “Foster Care in America: Realities, Challenges and Solutions.” KVC Health Systems, 2 June 2020,,slightly%20more%20boys%20than%20girls.

“The Problem.” Foster America, 2018,

“Students in Foster Care.” U.S. Department of Education, 27 June 2016,

24 thoughts on “Context Presentation Week 9: The Foster Care System in America

  1. I didn’t realize the statistics were that high! I don’t know many people who were adopted and I have not done much research outside of this presentation. To learn about this was very interesting and very sad to know the American system is failing all of these children. I am curious to know what these systems are like in places like Europe, Asia and Russia. Or is America the only place were there is an adoptive system?

  2. I agree that not enough importance is given to the foster care system in America, and its flaws often go unnoticed. I had no idea about some of the stats that you mentioned like the suicide rate of kids in foster care as well as the school dropout rate. I think the more that people become aware of these stats, the greater the chance will be of fixing the system.

  3. Christabel Paul I definitely agree with your comment, there certainly isn’t enough important information around foster care and what it does to children and their well being. The stats listed were very shocking, especially the suicide rates of children throughout the system. It is very sad and makes me emotional to think kids suffer from not having the care of their real parents and how their mental health is suffering.

  4. I didn’t know that around 20,000 individuals that have reached the legal adult age leave the foster care system because of no adoptions. I definitely think that there hasn’t been a lot of coverage on foster homes in the media. A lot of the psychological trauma that these individuals experience can have long term consequences. I am not that surprised that 70% of kids end up in juvenile justice systems. Many of these kids haven’t had a stable Homelife and may not have been taught right from wrong or haven’t felt true support. It’s heartbreaking to read that kids in foster care are four times more likely to commit suicide. I’m wondering if there has been anything created to combat these statistics such as programs or support groups that these kids can attend for help and guidance.

  5. I love how you brought up this topic as it is such an important issue that really doesn’t get brought up a lot. It is incredibly hard for kids who never get adopted to succeed in life since they have no stable home or care system. I’m not really sure about how to attack this issue but maybe teaching parents the dangers of putting their kids in foster care, or educating the kids in foster care about mental health and different career opportunities can be a start.

  6. I think it’s great how you addressed the problem with a very sad but eye opening statistic. But after reading this post I now realize how badly the American foster system is failing. It is clear the only way to fix the issue is to make people more aware of the issue which could result in more adoptions. These innocent children deserve a chance at a normal life with a loving family willing to support them. If this does not occur some resources like a counselor could help with the overall mental health of these children.

  7. I was genuinely shocked by that stats behind foster care. I knew it was a high number but never knew that magnitude of how many kids are actually in the system. It is definitely clear that America needs to be made more aware of the issues within the foster care system to hopefully decrease the number of kids within the system. This post was very informative and very well written.

  8. This topic of how the foster care system is often overlooked and underfunded is one of the most interesting to me because it is one that I personally did an extensive amount of research on in high school. It is so unfortunate that even though the foster care system is failing due to the overflow of kids, the kids that turn 18 are automatically discharged from the system and forced to live life on their own without any type of guidance. I agree that the older these kids become, the less likely they are to become adopted. It is unfair to them that from the start, they are given a bad hand with very little chance at success. For individuals who are, for lack of a better word, ignorant to the issues of kids being placed in foster care, they believe that it’s a better place for these children. However in reality, 25-40% of children report experiences of abuse, about 60% earn incomes below the poverty line, and are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide compared to the general population. Kids in the foster system are less likely to receive good education, and are oftentimes incarcerated, homeless, and/or develop mental health issues, and many people are oblivious to that. I hope that one day these statistics will be a thing of the past and the foster care system will become a universal safe haven for those that can’t find that at home with their families.

  9. I think this is an important issue to highlight and one that often gets overlooked. To expect that children who are separated from parental figures, sometimes repeatedly, are not going to experience emotional trauma, behavioral challenges, and other barriers is just ridiculous. Of course a child who has been separated in general, let a lone gone through further abuse of any kind, is going to need additional support–and likely patience and resources on the part of the caretaker. To just write of a child as problematic because their behavior is “difficult” is just unacceptable.

  10. I think this topic really needs to be addressed more often. I honestly never really hear it come up in general conversation and I think that’s indicative of the issue. While I do not know much about the foster care system, it seems to me like Americans feel lots of shame and guilt about it; and those are unpleasant feelings to face, so people just don’t and nothing ever gets done. It’s a really tough cycle and a huge issue for older children especially who never get adopted and accumulate years and years of mental, physical, and emotional trauma before they are thrown into the world and told to manage their way. While I would assume there are programs in place to assist those people, the statistics you present here indicate that more needs to be done.

  11. Hi, I have heard about the difficulties children in the foster care system experienced but I haven’t expected the rate of suffering children to be that high. It is sad to know that there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system per day and around 20,000 of them are forced to leave no matter they can live alone or not. I think I can understand why there’s a higher rate of dropping out of school and commit suicide as these children are hurt both physically and psychologically.

  12. After reading about foster kids, I was pretty shocked at how many are in the system. I think its terrible that so many kids cannot find a permeant home and are stuck moving from foster care to foster care. I think this is a topic that needs to be addressed more and I think there needs to be another way to help these kids find a home.

  13. I kind of knew that the foster system was not the best , but your statistics clearly show that it is actually worse than most think. I think problems regarding the foster care system get swept under the rug, as I feel like its not talked about that much on media outlets. I think their should be a bigger platform for helping and changing the foster care system in order to set up kids with a better fate when they are in it.

  14. I really appreciated the insight from this presentation about the statistics on the foster care system, just like many others said. Personally, I have some experience with foster kids because I work at a gym where I help with their childcare and we have a boy who is 10 years old and part of the foster system. I often find myself having to have conversations with him because of how upset he seems and although he will tell us that his foster family is very nice, he does not feel like he has a real home. I think that many foster kids struggle with their identity, like Deming/Daniel did in this novel, because some of them may only know the foster care system and do not have a sense of home like the other children do. It was very sad to learn that these statistics are so high for foster children and one day, I hope that I can make a difference in children’s lives and actively participate in bettering this system! Great presentation!

  15. After reading your post, I was shocked to see how large the numbers were for those in the foster care system. I always knew that there were a good amount of people of all age ranges in the system, but never truly realized the extent of how many were truly affected by this. Then to go along with this, to hear about the percentage of foster kids who end up in juvenile systems, it is crazy to see the effects that this experience in a kids life can have on them in the future. I feel as though you always think of these type of correlations and possibilities, but never truly hear about how drastic the statistics are and how much of a long-lasting effect it has on those that had to go through this for many years, or even just a small time. These percentages really show that a change needs to be made in relation to this system and helping out the kids that have to be a a part of this system in their life. Overall, great presentation in showing what the foster care system is really like.

  16. This post was really informative and taught me a lot that I did not know about the foster care system. I had no idea that number were that high. I think that it is a really sad situation that goes on for kids when they cannot find a permanent home to be welcomed into. I understand why they would be so stressed or sad all the time. I think this is an issue that we don’t hear about often but we should and there needs to be something done to get these numbers and rates to decrease.

  17. These statistics are really eye-opening, I knew it would be unpleasant to be in the foster system but I did not know it was this brutal until you pointed it out. The mental health factor is such an important point and we need to make this a number one priority What else can be done to help?

  18. I am amazed at how many children are in the foster system. I never had any idea about how big it is, and how important it is for those children. I really like how you were informative in telling us the statistics about the foster system. It saddens me to hear that children who are in the foster system experience a higher rate of mental health concerns.

  19. Thanks for the thread. As someone who went to school with plenty of children that were part of the foster care system, I am pretty familiar with how broken the system really is. I remember the kids in class who had a hard time with their focused education because of the subpar care received from their foster parents. This isn’t to put the blame on the parents, but rather to examine the potential intervention the government can aid in these flawed circumstances. I wonder from time to time how these mentioned children are doing today as adults. Nevertheless, even as a young child, I remember noticing the challenges barred by the foster children for a needed improved structure of care.

  20. I feel the foster care system is something that needs more light shed on the true statistics of children in care. Watching the recent turmoil in politics and between the debate on abortion the notion that unwanted children should just be put up for adoption is really squashed by the idea that 400,000 children are sitting and waiting to be adopted out of the system. With many of the children ending up in poor situations on top of that it needs to be more recognized that the foster care system needs heavily reformed before further amounts of children can go through its doors.

  21. After reading the article you wrote, I think this is a frustrating thing for me, and the statistics are even more surprising to me. Obviously, there are big problems with the foster care system in the United States. I think this matter should arouse more people’s attention, these children are innocent, they should have a better growing environment. In fact, for these children, they are unfortunate. I hope that more capable and caring families should participate in this matter.

  22. After reading this article, I know more about the American foster care system. Many ideas about it are wrong. At the same time, these systems also have many problems, and many children suffer because of it. These children are innocent and the system should be improved to help these children

  23. The statistics about foster care astounded me. I figured it was a large amount, but I had no idea how many children are actually in the system. It is obvious that greater understanding of the problems in the foster care system is needed in America in order to reduce the number of children in the system. This essay was both insightful and very well.

  24. After reading your context presentation, I totally agree that the foster care system is flawed. I found it quite alarming that foster care children are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than a child who is not in foster care. With limited funds, it becomes very difficult to ensure that these children leave foster care with no issues. These issues need to be addressed more frequently in the media. Thanks for sharing!

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