Foster Care Participation: Early Childhood

What is foster care?

Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents, usually due to crisis, cannot take care of them and whose need for care has come to the attention of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Child Welfare Division. Foster care is always the last choice and is only utilized when it is not possible for a child to remain safely at home. While in foster care, children may live with relatives, family friends, members of their community, or general foster providers. When a child needs extensive psychiatric or behavioral therapy, placement at a residential treatment facility may be necessary. OCID’s Foster Care Participation: Early Childhood indicator shows the percentage of children who have experienced one or more foster care placements before the age of 5. The population of children who cannot remain safely in their homes and must enter foster care is diverse in age, culture, race, class and background.

Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons. Usually, a larger percentage of children enter foster care due to neglect, with a smaller percentage entering due to physical abuse. Families of neglected and abused children are often experiencing a complex array of challenges, including economic and housing instability, untreated mental health needs, or alcoholic or substance use disorders.

To learn more about the Foster Care data presented here, check out our Technical Dictionary.

Why is foster care participation important?

At any given time, there are approximately 6,700 Oregon children in foster care, which is 11% less than the national average. Between July 2018 and July 2020, the number of children in foster care decreased by 18%.

It is well known that children do best growing up in a family that can provide love, support, life-long learning, shared-values and important memories. Research also shows that placement in foster care can cause further serious trauma. This trauma and the trauma experienced before entering foster care can have negative long-term impacts on the wellbeing of children.

The Child Welfare division is a partner of a larger statewide social safety-net system that works to strengthen families and communities and seamlessly support people not just during a life-threatening crisis but well beforehand, when small interventions can make an enormous difference in people’s lives.


To learn more about foster care, please visit the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS):

Please remember the following
  • OCID only includes children born in Oregon since 2001; ideally, the dataset will be expanded over time to represent all of the children in Oregon.
  • The Dashboard shows descriptive data, not causal relationships.
  • To display race and ethnicity categories consistently across multiple data sources, OCID currently combines information from vital statistics, education, Medicaid, and child welfare records. Visit our Race and Ethnicity Data Overview to learn more.
  • To protect the identities of individuals, OCID only shows results for populations; where populations are too small and could risk revealing identifiable information, OCID displays the result as “Suppressed.”

For more information about the details and limitations of the data, please visit our Technical Dictionary and Dataset Overview.

Ready to explore the data?

The indicator display below provides two views:

  • A dashboard view for a structured way to look at the indicator by selecting a geography and then 1-2 other attributes; and,
  • A “sandbox” view for freely exploring the various attributes.

Please visit the About OCID and Explore OCID Population pages before exploring the data. For details on the indicator, attributes, data sources, and limitations, please visit the Well-being Dashboard Technical Dictionary.


What explains any trends and disparities?

We don’t know yet. The Dashboard shows descriptive data, not causal relationships. In depth analyses are needed to understand why disparities or trends occur.

The OCID team conducts targeted analyses using advanced statistical methods to shed light on policy questions prioritized by the Governance Committee. These analyses aim to provide Oregon-specific and timely information for policymakers, allowing them to take a data-driven approach to improving outcomes for Oregon’s children. Sign up below to receive OCID updates.

Suggested citation: Center for Evidence-based Policy, Oregon Health & Science University. Foster care participation: early childhood dashboard. Oregon Child Integrated Dataset (OCID) website. Published June 3, 2020.

The Center for Evidence-based Policy partners with the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, also at Oregon Health & Science University, on dashboard analytics.