Change Indicator

Foster Care - September 30 snapshot by race or ethnicity in Pennsylvania

  • Detailed
  • Sort / Rank

Why This Indicator Matters

Foster care, also known as out-of-home care, is a court-monitored process that involves removing children from their families following a substantiated report of abuse or neglect. [1] All child maltreatment reports are investigated by either Child Protective Services (CPS) or General Protective Services (GPS), depending on the nature of the referral, to determine the child’s safety within the household as well as the level of risk for future harm.[2] Children are typically only placed in foster care after family preservation and in-home services fail to improve their safety and well-being in the home. Out-of-home placement is often viewed as temporary, as achieving and maintaining permanency is always the primary priority of child welfare agencies, whether that be in the form of reunification with their caregivers or finding new homes with relatives or adoptive families.[3] Family issues with substance use, mental illness, or domestic abuse are among the most common factors that lead to children entering the foster care system.[4]

By examining a snapshot of the foster care population by race and Hispanic origin, researchers are able to infer what the foster care system looks like on a typical day in terms of racial and ethnic demographics and track longitudinal trends associated with children of color in out-of-home care. Systemic racial and ethnic disparity is a prominent issue within the child welfare system, with national data suggesting many states have an overrepresentation of children who are of African-American, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hispanic descent in foster care.[5] Racial disparities also exist in the prevalence of suspected maltreatment reports, CPS investigations, confirmed maltreatment reports, removal from the home, length of time in foster care, rate of reunification, likelihood to receive services, and termination of parental rights. Further analysis of the child welfare continuum and the general population compared to the foster care population is needed to fully understand any racial and ethnic disparities among foster children in Pennsylvania.

[1] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2023). Overview: Out-of-Home Care. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau.

[2] Rizvi, M. B., Conners, G. P., King, K. C., Lopez, R. A., & Rabiner, J. (2022). Pennsylvania Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

[3], [4] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2023). Achieving & Maintaining Permanency. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau.

[5] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2021). Child Welfare Practice to Address Racial Disproportionality and Disparity. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau.
show more

Definition and Source



The number and percent of children in out of home placement on any given day (9/30) by race or Hispanic origin.  The “Non-Hispanic Other” category includes children who were not Hispanic, not White, not Black or African American, and whose record did not indicate more than one category. This category includes a small number of American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Unable to Determine.

Data Source

PPC analysis of AFCARS longitudinal file produced by Public Consulting Group for Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families.


Race or Hispanic origin are mutually exclusive categories. Children who are of Hispanic origin are not classified as any other race.

S = Suppressed.  Statistics (rates, ratios, percents) are not calculated and displayed for counts less than 10 (or less than 3 for Bayesian/Nearest Neighbor rates). This is due to the unreliability of statistics based on small numbers of events.

Last Updated

April 2024