Vol. 18, No. 1 • November 2013

By the Numbers: Foster Homes in North Carolina

On August 30, 2013 there were 8,882 children in the custody of North Carolina county departments of social services. About 40% of these children were placed with relatives.

To care for the remaining 5,500 or so children, North Carolina relies on:

  • 100 county departments of social services. All these agencies supervise traditional family foster homes; five (Catawba, Johnston, Moore, Randolph, Wilson) also supervise therapeutic foster homes.
  • 105 private child-placing agencies licensed by the NC Division of Social Services. These agencies provide a variety of services; most contract with county DSS agencies to supervise traditional family foster homes, therapeutic foster homes, or both.
  • 80 residential child care facilities (group homes) licensed by the NC Division of Social Services. These placements are more often used for adolescents and children with serious mental or physical health difficulties.
As of August 30, 2013 there were 6,584 licensed foster homes in North Carolina.

Foster Homes
Parents in traditional family foster homes are trained to care for abused and neglected children while their parents work with DSS to resolve their family issues. Parents in therapeutic foster homes receive special training to provide care for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems. On August 30, 2013 North Carolina had 6,584 licensed foster homes. Of these:

  • 3,657 were family foster homes. DSS agencies supervised 2,458 (67%) of these; private agencies supervised 1,199 (33%).
  • 2,927 were therapeutic foster homes. Private agencies supervised 99% of these.

Because foster homes are such an essential part of our efforts--foster care could not exist without them--and because they can have such a direct effect upon the well-being of children, it helps to have some sense of how the system uses foster homes and how long foster homes remain active.

Use. Gibbs (2005) examined administrative data on use of foster homes in Oregon, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Although she cautions that her findings are not necessarily generalizable to other states, she found that in these states just 20% of foster parents provided 60% to 72% of all foster care days. This is in line with the conclusion reached by Stukes Chipungu and Bent-Goodley (2004), who found that on a national level 33% of licensed homes have no children placed in their homes at any given time.

Length of Service. In the three states she studied, Gibbs found that between 47% and 62% of foster parents quit fostering within one year of the first placement in their home, and that at least 20% of all foster homes left the system each year.

We do not have data about the length of service for foster homes in North Carolina. However, we do know that a large number of new foster homes are licensed each year. For example, in state fiscal year 2012-13 North Carolina licensed 1,265 new foster homes (NCDSS, 2013).

This means that about a fifth of North Carolina's current foster homes were licensed within the past fiscal year.

To view references cited in this and other articles in this issue, click here.

~ Family and Children's Resource Program, UNC-CH School of Social Work ~