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Why children come into care can vary widely depending on the unique needs and circumstances of the family of origin. All children in foster care have experienced traumatic events and have unique needs.

Due to their experiences, some children may lack trust in adults to meet their needs and keep them safe. They may show their feelings through aggression, social withdrawal, emotional introversion, generalized fear/anxiety and other behaviors that require a high level of patience, supervision and guidance. These children may also need guidance in learning the basics of daily routines, self-care, and social skills. Most importantly, children placed into foster care need to feel supported, safe and cared for.

Below you will find the most common reasons a child may enter foster care.  It is not uncommon for children to have experienced several of these situations.  For some, it is a onetime event, while others have experienced multiple events during a significant period.

  • Neglect
    Common types of neglect include withholding of a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, hygiene, education, or medical needs. Neglect can also be caused by leaving a child unattended for varying lengths of time or in an unsanitary or unsafe environment.
  • Physical Abuse
    Physical abuse is the intentional harm, or threat of harm, to a child by a parent or caregiver. While physical abuse is commonly seen as the act of hitting, it may also include keeping a child in an unsafe environment which could lead to physical harm.
  • Sexual Abuse
    Sexual abuse can fall along a continuum and can include exposure to sexual materials, sexual behaviors, or sexual acts with a child.
  • Mental Injury
    Mental injury is harm to a child’s psychological capacity or emotional stability evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment of a child’s functioning.
  • Addiction
    When a parent is struggling with addiction issues, such as drugs or alcohol, it negatively impacts their ability to meet the needs of their child(ren). Their actions can lead to increased risk of harm, neglect and abuse. When the risk is especially high, children are placed into foster care while it is determined if the parents can manage their addiction issues.
  • Incarceration
    A child may be placed into foster care due to the incarceration of parents when no alternative caregivers are available for the child.
  • Voluntary Placement
    Occasionally, due to difficult family circumstances, some parents have voluntarily placed their children into foster care.


In 2016, younger and older children are over represented in the foster care system.

  • 28 percent were 3 years old and younger, while this age group represents 22 percent of the general population
  • 38 percent were 12 years old and older, while this age group represents 33 percent of the general population
  • 34 percent were between 4 and 11 years old, this age group represents 45 percent of the general population


Many of the children are from rural counties or children of color or of Native American descent.

  • 61 percent of children come from outside the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area
  • Children of color were overrepresented in the out-of-home placement system compared to the number in the general population
  • American Indian children were 17 times more likely to experience out-of-home care; those of two or more races were five times more likely
  • African American or black children were three times more likely than their white counterparts
  • Asian Pacific Islander children were less likely to experience out-of-home care compared to their white counterparts

For children who left out-of-home placement in 2016:

  • 63 percent were reunited with their birth parents or legal guardians
  • 15 percent were adopted
  • 13 percent achieved permanency with a relative or other caregiver
  • 9 percent left foster care without the benefits of a permanent family

For the most recent detailed information about the children in foster care, see


Department of Human Services, Child Protection Information and Guidelines

Long-Term Consequences of Abuse and Neglect

Documentary: ReMoved Part One & Part Two:
The ReMoved Films have been created with the intent to bring light to the, often, unknown subjects of Foster Care and Child Abuse/Neglect. The films are available online to watch for free.


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