This kind of foster care is intended to provide short-term care to children whose parents may be experiencing special or emergency needs of their own. This kind of care may be given when parents lose custody during the investigation of improper care. It is fully expected that the children will return home within a week to a few months.

There is often considerable contact with the family who are emotionally close to the children. Short-term foster care may also be an option when parents find themselves in a medical emergency with no other child-care resources. This latter can be seen as a formalized form of “kinship care” which, in former, more socially stable times, would have been done automatically and informally by the extended family.