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.

Help us improve!

Click here to sign up for our survey!


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

Please remember the following
  • The OCID Child Well-being Dashboard only includes children born in Oregon since 2001.
  • 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.
  • The Dashboard shows descriptive data, not causal relationships. In depth analyses are needed to understand why disparities or trends occur. OCID’s targeted analyses shed light on policy questions prioritized by the Governance Committee.

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

Ready to explore the data?

Use the interactive display below to discover how characteristics collected by state programs vary among groups of children with different well-being outcomes.


Data are a starting point for understanding children’s experiences; they do not fully describe an individual’s identity or experience.

Want to dive deeper?

Explore the interactive display below to investigate potential trends or disparities among groups of children with the same well-being outcome.


Sign up below to receive project updates including when OCID releases new analyses!

Suggested citation: Center for Evidence-based Policy, Oregon Health & Science University. Foster care participation: early childhood dashboard. Oregon Child Integrated Dataset (OCID) website. Published [inserted ‘display updated’ date].

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