Family Foster Care

Family foster care is a state-sponsored system for providing temporary family living situations for children who are unable to live with their biological families. A child may become a candidate for family foster care if one or both parents are alive but neither parent is able to take care of the child. Circumstances can include parents who have been found unfit due to evidence of neglect or abuse, parents who suffer from mental illness or drug addiction that endangers the child's well-being, parents whose life circumstances prevent them from providing proper childcare. e.g., physical illness, poverty, etc.

Children are placed in family foster care by decision of a judge who reviews the circumstances, decides the best disposition for the child, sets timelines for review and establishes or directs that a state social services agency establish criteria to be met in order for children to be returned to their original family.

Children are placed in the homes of families who have been pre-screened and trained to handle children coming from disrupted homes. These families receive state subsidies to pay for the care of foster children under their supervision.

People who choose to offer family foster care do so for a variety of reasons. They may be searching for a child or children to adopt and foster care provides a "trying out" period for all. It should be noted, however, that the goal of foster parenting is to return the child to his or her family; people who want to adopt may not be able to embrace that goal completely enough to function effectively as foster parents. Some people may have raised their family but want to continue parenting. Or, they may simply want to help children during the stressful time of foster care. Unfortunately there are also people who offer family foster care in order to access cash subsidies or to take advantage of the children assigned to them.

Although foster care is a critical component of helping children and families in need, state agencies can be and often are under funded and poorly managed, leading to tragic consequences for children placed in inappropriate settings.

If you are thinking about family foster care, visit your state's Web site (usually www.yourstate.gov) and search on the words "foster care" for specific information about your state's foster care program.