Foster Care and Adoption

More than 428,000 children are in foster care in the United States annually. While homeless, many families break up and children are placed in foster care. Conversely, young people in foster care are at higher risk of becoming homeless, both while in foster care and when they age out at 21 and financial subsidies are no longer available to foster families.

Financial subsidies for families who adopt children end at age 18. This can lead to “failed adoptions” in which young people are abandoned by their adoptive families. Left without a family or a home, and no safety net because they are legally adults outside of the protection of child welfare agencies, these young people are suddenly homeless.

The disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth who run away or are sent away from their homes due to conflicts with their foster care or adopted families are of special concern. Once on the streets, homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health issues, substance use, and even death. These risks increase for LGBTQ youth who are homeless.

National data do not identify how many children are removed from their homes because of a parent’s substance use. Although there is no single standard for how states report substance use and child neglect, many state officials have indicated that the nation’s opioid epidemic is driving a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care.


“Adoption is a complex issue in which everyone has a lot to learn—not only the parents by birth and by adoption, but also the institutions, professionals, neighbors, and friends who assist them.”
Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao


Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, Ed.D., LCSW, LMFT, has worked for 40 years in the fields of adoption, child welfare, family systems, and organizational development. She provides consulting, training, and program and intervention design to schools, businesses, and non-profit agencies.

Dr. Pavao draws on a wide range of academic disciplines—psychology, adult learning, conflict management, family systems, child welfare, organizational development and leadership—to help families and organizations meet the challenges they face.

In partnership with The Bassuk Center, Dr. Pavao brings her expertise to address the connections between foster care, adoption, and homelessness. Her systemic, intergenerational, and developmental framework is presented in her critically acclaimed book The Family of Adoption.


Dr. Pavao is founder and CEO of ACCT (Pre/Post Adoption Consulting and Training) which provides training and counseling about the psychological, educational, and emotional issues of adoption and post-adoption.

AACT trains therapists, public and private agencies, hospitals and residential treatment centers, lawyers and judges, and educators and clergy to identify, understand, and integrate the developmental issues unique to pre- and post-adoption experiences. As advocates, AACT works with other mental health professionals, legislators, and the media.

AACT services address the lifelong challenges inherent in being part of a complex blended family. A guiding principle is the constant recognition that adoption is not a single event. It is a life-long adventure. Learn more about Dr. Pavao and AACT here.