As many as half a million children are a part of the foster system at any given time, with an average stay of two years. Most commonly, these children are placed in a non-relative home. Other times they will live in a relative’s home, a group home setting, or, rarely, supervised independent living. Although each situation is different, there are a few common reasons children enter the foster system. Child safety and welfare is always at the root. Here is a breakdown of reasons that children enter the foster system.

1. Abuse

Abuse is probably the first thing people think of when discussing foster care. Despite what many believe, it is not the most common reason children enter the foster system. It is, unfortunately, all too common. When a child is a victim of physical or sexual abuse, they need to be removed from that situation immediately. Foster care is used to protect the child while other interventions take place in the home.

2. Neglect

When a child goes without basic needs, this is cause for the courts to remove the child from the home. Neglect includes leaving a child alone for an extended period, lack of food or clean living, or lack of necessary medical care. This is the most common form of ause.

3. Illness

Sometimes a parent’s health does not allow them to care for their children. If there is not a family member available to step in, foster care may be considered.

4. Incarceration

When a parent faces incarceration, attempts will be made for children to be placed in the care of friends or family. Until this can be arranged, the child may enter foster care.

5. Death

When a parent dies, all attempts will be made to keep the child within the care of family. When this is not possible, the child may enter the foster system. This may be temporary until family can be located or another situation determined.

6. Drug Abuse

When a parent is suffering from an addiction, children suffer. Children have a right to grow up without this influence. Sometimes drug abuse leads to abuse, neglect, or incarceration. As the parent(s) work through their addiction, children may be placed in another environment.

7. Child’s Choices

Although we usually think it is the caregiver’s actions that lead to foster placement, it can occasionally be the cause of the child’s choices. If the child breaks the law, runs away, or has truancy concerns, the court may determine that a foster care situation would be best for the child.

8. Voluntary placement

Rarely, parents may choose to place a child into foster care. In these circumstances, parents relinquish their rights and children become eligible for adoption. They may be adopted by their foster parents, or another suitable situation may be found.

In short, children enter the foster system because their family is in crisis. Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution on the path to building a safe and stable family. Foster care changes people, with the goal to change the situation into a better one. Children deserve to be raised in a home with kindness, needs met, and stability.