New York City’s foster youth are on their own

funded but forgotten




New York spends more than $700 million on the child welfare system each year, yet youth in foster care still struggle to find a foothold. Just one in three graduates from high school, while one in five will become homeless at some point. Often, young people are left to deal with medical and mental health issues on their own.

The 8,420 youth in foster care in New York are invisible to most New Yorkers. The city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) contracts with dozens of community agencies, such as the New York Foundling, which manage placements and social services. On their 18th birthday, teenagers can choose to leave the system or stay in it until they turn 21. Each year, more than 700 young people age out of the system.

A handful of nonprofits, like You Gotta Believe, focus on supporting young people who are aging out and connecting them with adults with whom they can have positive relationships. The Fair Futures campaign is calling for another $50 million to fund mentors and coaches for foster youth age 13 to 26. But often, current and former foster youth find themselves navigating a chaotic world on their own.


“It’s easy to lose your apartment.”

Child Abuse

“I equated abuse with love.”

Aging Out

“I want a family. I don’t know how else to put that.”

Foster Parents

“There just aren’t enough homes.”

Money Isn’t Enough

ACS is one of the highest-funded city agencies, yet the odds remain stacked against youth in foster care.

  • More than 4,000 kids — about half of all youth in care — had not found a permanent placement two years after entering the system.


  • On average, foster youth wait 1.5 years to get a NYCHA apartment.


  • More than 1 in 5 of young people in foster care repeat a grade, compared to 1 in 17 youth overall.


  • 86% of private providers did not meet the federal maltreatment of care standards in 2017, up from 41% in 2016.


  • Nationally, 47% of youth who grew up in foster care are unemployed.