With over 400,000 kids in foster care, the safety of the children has to be priority number one. Here are some ways the foster system works to protect their charges.
- Family first. Before a child is placed into the system, social workers determine if any “kinship care” is available for the child or sibling group. Relatives or close family friends who can care for the children are preferable to foster care, and placements like these have been shown to make the child’s stay less traumatic.
- Advocacy systems. In most areas, children are assigned an advocate (CASA) who works with social workers and court officials to make sure that the child’s best interests are being represented. Most advocates will stay with their charge from beginning to end, ensuring continuity of care.
- Special licensing for caregivers. Foster parents and group home professionals are required to take a battery of classes in order to pass licensing. Many states require CPR training in addition to child development courses and classes on parenting.
- A safe house. The minimum standard for a home licensed to have foster children is one that is clean, in good repair, and keeps to local zoning codes. In addition, each home must have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and keep all hazardous materials locked up and put away. Guns and ammunition are required to be locked up.
- Giving kids space. Most states require homes to have a specific number of bedrooms per people in the home. Many states require foster children to have their own bedroom and do not allow children of the opposite sex to share a room.
- Background checks. Carers are required to undergo background checks and can be refused if they have got prior “barrier crimes” in their history. Barrier crimes can include arson, assault, violent crimes, or sexual crimes. Those who cannot pass the background check are kept away from the kids. Many states have expanded background checks for caregivers to include interviews with family members not living at home, clergy, neighbors, and employers.