Finding Families for Foster Youth Saves Government Significantly

Often, it takes hard work to prove what you know intuitively.  Such efforts, however, can be vital in demonstrating in black-and-white the difference that common sense solutions can make.  Such research can make the difference between an idea becoming law…or just remaining a good idea.

A recent study funded by the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) highlights the significant savings to government realized when a child who would otherwise grow up in foster care is adopted.   The report by Dr. Nicholas Zill (founder of the Child Trends research center) lays out the hard data showing that helping children in foster care find families not only can improve children’s lives, but also could save government more than a billion dollars per year.  See the full report, “Better Prospects, Lower Cost: The Case for Increasing Foster Care Adoption.”

Dr. Zill calculates costs to government via both the child welfare system as well as use of government assistance programs that emancipated foster youth often must rely upon after exiting foster care.

According to Dr. Zill, “Comparing the per-child cost of subsidized adoption from foster care with the cost of maintaining a child in foster care…the child adopted from foster care costs the public only 40 percent as much as the child who remains in foster care. The difference in cost per child per year amounts to $15,480” [emphasis added].

Dr. Zill concluded that over a billion dollars per year could be saved, and children better served, by increasing the number of children adopted out of foster care.  While reminding that caring for children who’ve experienced deep hurt can be difficult, he affirms, “… The evidence clearly indicates that adoption can substantially improve the life chances of maltreated children, and that, as a secondary interest to the public, it can do so at considerably less cost than long-term foster care.”