Because Adolescents Matter Now

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Foster Care

Adolescents in foster care experience this important developmental period in a unique and challenging context.  Youth may be placed with a relative, with a foster family or in a group home.  As a result of their placement they may be moved from their school, community and social network.  In foster care, they often lack the strong peer and adult support systems.  Recent data shows that adolescents 11-20 years old make up almost half of the more than 58,000 minors in California’s child welfare system (1).  Among these adolescents, African Americans and Native American and LGBT youth are over represented (1).

Youth who are in foster care are more likely  to have experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect,related to their removal from their biological family homes that can have an impact on their emotional well-being (2).  Youth in foster care are also more likely to experience depression or attempted suicide and to use drugs or alcohol (3).  Despite having health insurance, youth in foster care are less likely to have a regular source of medical care (4).  After emancipating from foster care, it is estimated that 20% experience homelessness because they do not receive sufficient support to obtain housing and employment prior to emancipation (5).

While youth in foster care face many challenges, California is home to many initiatives and efforts to support these youth as they transition from adolescence to adulthood, from supportive housing programs to leadership development to policy efforts to increase their access to health services.  This section provides news and research updates on the health status of youth in foster care, as well as reports and resources about strategies to improve their health.

Learn More

Data and research are essential tools for raising awareness of adolescent health issues, to plan programs and service delivery, and to formulate policy at the state and local levels. CAHC is committed to maintaining a website that serves as a gateway to a wide array of resources, and regularly updating our site to include the most up-to-date research. Direct links are provided when possible, and abstracts are provided for journal articles.

Navigate to the upper right hand corner of this page for a more in-depth look at this health topic. Sections include research, resources, youth voices, and briefs & fact sheets.

Please contact us if you have additional information you think should be included.


(1) Child Welfare Dynamic Report System. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, 2010.

(2) Love LT, McIntosh J, Rosst M, Tertzakian K. (2005) Preventing Teen Pregnancy Among youth in Foster Care. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Washington, DC.

(3) Pilowksy DJ, Wu LT. (2006) Psychiatric symptoms and substance use disorders in a nationally representative sample of American adolescents involved in foster care. J Adolesce Health; 38(4):351-358.

(4) Rubin DM, Alessandrini EA, Feudtner C, Localio AR, Hadley T. (2004). Placement changes and emergency department visits in the first year of foster care. Pediatrics; 114(3):354-60.

(5) Fernandes, A. L. (2008). Youth transitioning from foster care: Background, federal programs, and issues for Congress. Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress.