Foster care is a type of temporary service provided by the state or other organizations for children. It provides a home to those who may not have access to a safe place to live for various reasons. For example, a child who is unable to live with his or her parents or legal guardians may need to utilize this service until more permanent solutions are available to them.
What Is Foster Care?
Foster care provides temporary care for children under the age of 18. It provides care for children who have parents that cannot take care of the child and need care. Generally, this lack of care has come to the attention of a child welfare agency that takes action to ensure the child is able to live in a safe place and receive the attention, food, and physical care they need.
In foster care, children may live in the home of relatives. Whenever possible, that is the desired option. When that is not possible, children may live with other families specifically designated to provide care to children in need. There are also group facilities that provide care to many children.
Many of the children who live in foster care return to their families at some point. The goal is to provide them with a safe living environment until that is possible. Unfortunately, it does not always happen, in which case the child may remain within foster care for a long time until they are 18 years of age or when a more permanent home is found for them.
How Do Government Agencies Assist with Foster Care?
Government officials provide a significant amount of guidance and support to foster families and the children they care for within the child welfare system. These agencies gather information about children who may be facing neglect or abuse in any form. They then investigate the situation to determine if the child is at risk. If they believe that is the case, social workers can take action to have the children removed from the home. This involves going to court to request temporary custody of the child.
Once a child is in foster care, social workers are required to visit and follow up on both the child and the child’s guardians or family members as they work to improve conditions so the child can return to a stable environment.
Social workers are also responsible for ensuring the child's needs are met when they are away from home, such as ensuring they are going to school, getting health care, and staying in touch with families. In addition, they support foster care parents with many of the needs they have as well.
What Are the Types of Foster Care?
Various types of foster care programs are available. Some examples include:
· Traditional foster care, which is most types of care
· Medical foster care for children who have complex medical needs
· Elevated needs foster care such as for trauma, fear, or loss situations
· Treatment foster care provides access to ongoing support and therapy
· Relative or kinship foster care, which includes the child being placed with a family member
Examples of Available Foster Care Programs
Numerous foster care programs exist throughout the U.S. Many are public agencies that state employees run. Others are private child placement agencies and nonprofit organizations that operate nationally. Some are state-focused. Nonprofits and private programs typically work to support the needs of local institutions who are often unable to care for all children. Some examples of these foster care programs include:
· Casey Family Programs
· The New York Foundling
Find Your Way to Get Started
Many resources exist for those interested in becoming a foster parent to help you learn and prepare for caring for children in need. Seek out these programs to learn more about their options to prepare you.