Foster Care

Oregonians share their perceptions, involvement, interest in foster parenting, and willingness to provide support for foster families.

From May 26 – June 5, 2023, the Sarah Cohen-Doherty Center for Children at the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ attitudes and behavior related to foster care to support the work of Every Child Oregon. This highlights memo summarizes key findings for questions related to involvement, interest, and perceived importance of Oregon’s foster care systems. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below. A Spanish version of the questionnaire was developed for the study in partnership with Rural Development Initiatives; the values and beliefs of Spanish-speaking Oregonians are included in the findings.   

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire and tabs. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add up to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs. 

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroup variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions. 

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability. 

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet. 

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center: This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute. 

This research was made possible by donations to OVBC in memory of Sarah Cohen Doherty who worked tirelessly on behalf of children and early learning. She was an inspirational community leader. 

Every Child Oregon: Every Child Oregon mobilizes the community to uplift children and families impacted by foster care in Oregon. Every Child provides relational, community, and tangible support for families; shares the realities of foster care while demonstrating a positive, collaborative, and hopeful tone that challenges the stereotypes associated with the system and those involved; and raises up new foster (resource) parents by sharing the need for more foster families while providing meaningful ways for anyone and everyone to get involved in child welfare at any level.

Involvement in Foster Care

  • Over a quarter of Oregonians report involvement in the foster care system (Q59).  
    • Those with a high-school education or lower report significantly more involvement with foster care systems (31%) than those with a college education and higher (23%). 
    • Those with school-aged children also have higher involvement in foster care systems (33%) 

Support for Foster Care

  • Although about three in four Oregonians may not have personal experience with foster care systems in Oregon, a staggering 93% of respondents agreed on the importance of Oregon’s foster care systems in supporting the needs of children and families (Q60).  
    • This consensus spanned across demographic groups, with no groups falling below an 87% agreement that foster care systems were somewhat or very important. 

Oregonian Questions About Foster Care

  • Many Oregonians are curious about foster care, asking questions about how the legal process works, what rights foster children and parents have, and what supports are put in place to ensure successful placement for both parties (Q61). Below are some representative quotes. 

“What is the application process like? How long are placements? What can I do to approach fostering from a trauma informed approach?” 

Woman, age 18 – 29, Deschutes County, Asian 

“Possible adoption, hoops to jump through, and the rights and responsibilities, or expectations from government agencies.”  

Man, age 55 – 64, Marion County, Prefers not to disclose race or ethnicity 

“How are the children treated? What caused them to be separated from their parents? Will they need specialized care due to past experiences? Will they have the option of returning to their parents? Do the children have any say as to what happens to them?”

Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 30 – 44, Malheur County, White 

“What type of support is offered for both the foster parent and the child outside of the home?”  

Woman, age 65 – 74, Josephine County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native 

“What is the process of becoming a foster parent?” 

Woman, Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 18 – 29, Jackson County, White 

“How does one prepare for the challenges of foster parenting?” 

Man, age 18 – 29, Multnomah County, Black or African American and White 

“First question would be about finances. Does the state offer financial assistance to the family that offers to foster children? What applications are required to be filled out? What basic requirements are there?”  

Man, age 45 – 54, Umatilla County, White 

Future Likelihood of Foster Parenting

  • Oregonians were also asked about the likelihood that they would become foster parents themselves (Q62). Three-quarters of respondents feel it is unlikely they will become a foster parent in the future (76%), including 44% of them who state it is not at all likely.  
  • Of the 24% of Oregonians who could see themselves becoming foster parents, only 5% believe it is very likely they will indeed become foster parents. People who have been involved with foster care are more likely than those who have not been to say that it’s possible they will become a foster parent (30% and 21%, respectively).  
    • Responses to this question are overwhelmingly influenced by the respondent’s age. Those 55 and above report a lower likelihood of becoming a foster parent, while people between the ages of 18-44 were more likely to report a higher interest in becoming a foster parent.  
  • Those who report a higher likelihood of becoming foster parents include people who identify as gender non-conforming or non-binary (42%, n=42)1, those who have school-aged children (39%), BIPOC respondents (35%), people with a high school education or less (31%), those who rent their homes (31%), and people living in urban areas (30%). 
    • Both BIPOC2, LGBTQIA+3, and gender non-confirming children are over-represented in foster care systems. 
  • Those who report a lower likelihood of becoming foster parents include those who don’t have school-aged children (18%), people earning $100,000 or more annually (18%), those who own their homes (17%), and people with a college education or more (16%).  
    • Research conducted by Piff, Kraus, Côté, Cheng, and Keltner in 2010 indicated that individuals with lower income and education levels tended to display higher levels of generosity or prosocial behavior and were more likely to help others in experimental settings.4 

Summation Quotes

Amaury Vogel, Associate Executive Director, OVBC:

  • “Belief in the importance of a foster care system that supports the health and welfare of Oregon’s children, families, and communities represents common ground among Oregonians.”  
  • “One in four adult Oregonians have had some form of interaction with the foster care system, either personally or through a member of their household or family. The likelihood of having had this type of experience is higher among those who have not attended college and individuals living outside the Willamette Valley and Portland Metro areas.” 
  • “Oregonians have a lot of questions about foster care and being a foster parent. Many of their concerns revolve around the support available for both children and foster parents, including their legal rights. Most people are willing to help meet the basic needs of foster children, but far fewer think it’s likely they would ever try foster parenting. Interestingly, those who have had some experience with foster systems tend to show more openness towards the idea of becoming foster parents.” 
  • “LGBTQIA, Black or African American, and Native American, American Indian, and Alaska Native children are overrepresented in foster care systems, so it is worth noting that people who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and BIPOC Oregonians are more likely to express interest in becoming foster parents.” 

Oscar Sweeten-Lopez, Executive Director, Every Child Oregon:

  • “It is encouraging that 72% of Oregonians are willing to help provide for the basic needs of a child or family engaged with the child welfare system. Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can do something. Every Child Oregon seeks to connect individuals, businesses, families, and faith communities with meaningful ways to support kids and families in need whether on a one-time or ongoing basis; providing tangible needs, respite care, relational support; or providing foster care themselves.”  
  • “Oregonians have a lot of great questions about fostering. We’re excited to connect Oregonians with the stories of kids and families engaged in foster care through our website, social media, and other channels of communication, as well as giving people a chance to hear from current parents and get their questions answered through low-barrier opportunities like “Explore Fostering” coffeehouses or other events in their own communities.” 

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 2,333 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. 

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample is ±2.03%. Due to rounding or multiple-answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

For More Information:

OVBC May-June 2023 Survey_Tabs_Foster Care.docx

OVBC May-June 2023 Survey_Annotated Questionnaire_Foster Care.docx

[1] It is recommended that because of the low number of respondents in the gender non-conforming category that reporting include the number of respondents as well as the percentage. 

[2] In Oregon, children who are Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Natives are 3.3 times more likely to experience foster care, and children who are Black or African American are 1.9 times more likely to experience foster care. Oregon Department of Human Services 2021 Child Welfare Data Book (2022). 2021 Child Welfare Data Book ( e rate for white children.”

[3]  Oregon Department of Human Services 2021 Child Welfare Data Book does not include data on gender or sexual diversity among children in the welfare system. At the national level, a 2019 study found that “sexual minority youth are nearly 2.5 times as likely as heterosexual youth to experience foster care placement.” Fish, J. N., Baams, L., Wojciak, A. S., & Russell, S. T. (2019). Child Abuse & Neglect, 89, Are sexual minority youth overrepresented in foster care, child welfare, and out-of-home placement? Findings from nationally representative data – ScienceDirect.

[4] Piff, P. K., Kraus, M. W., Côté, S., Cheng, B. H., & Keltner, D. (2010). Having less, giving more: The influence of social class on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(5), 771–784.