What Is Foster Care?
Foster care refers to out of home care for children provided by the state or an agency contracting with the state. Foster parents are trained over the course of several weeks before taking in foster children. Children need out of home care when their parents are unable to care for them within the home and no appropriate family or kinship options are found to care for them. A family or child in need may come to the attention of the state through a reporting teacher, police officer, neighbor, or other concerned individual. Some people are required to report suspected child abuse ore neglect, they are called mandatory reporters. Some concerns may be that a child is not being properly supervised, missing school, or that a child is suspected of being abused or neglected.
These reports are then investigated and if they are substantiated, a judge will then place a child in state's custody and into the foster care system. The court will then monitor the case regularly to ensure that the case is moving forward. The goal is to end children remaining in foster care for years without a permanent home.
- What Are the Top Reasons Children Enter the Foster Care System?
- Understanding Each Role within the Court System
- Understanding Each Role within a Foster Care Agency
How Is Foster Care Meant to Function?
Foster care is meant to be short term, temporary assistance for families in need. Birth parents are given court orders to complete, such as parenting classes or drug and alcohol treatment. Due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act(ASFA), PL 105-89, children in care are supposed to be reunified with their birth family within fifteen months. If not, then other options such as adoption are to be explored.
What Is the Role of a Foster Parent?
Foster parents are to care for the children placed in their home as if they were their own children. They are to teach, discipline, love, and help them over come any past hurts and losses. Foster parents are sometimes asked to mentor birth parents and to become a support system once the children return home.
- Foster Parents and the Children and Families of the Foster Care System
- The Challenges of Being a Foster Parent
- When Foster Parents First Meet Birth Family
How Does Foster Care End?
Once birth parents complete their court orders and prove that they have made any and all changes per those court orders, their children are returned to them in orderly, planned moves home. This process all begins with visits that slowly increase in time and frequency. Once a child is home, the case worker continues to visit the family for usually a period of eighteen months.
If the birth family has not made positive changes, a judge may decide to terminate parental rights. This decision is not made lightly and is a long process. This will mean that a child will be then available for adoption. These children will remain in foster care in a foster home, until an adoptive home can be found. Other extended birth family members and the foster family are usually considered first as an adoptive resource, in the case of termination.
If a child is over the age of fourteen the child may choose not to be adopted and independent living may be explored as an option for that child. The age of consent for adoption may differ from state to state.