Understanding The Foster Care System

Nurturing Futures
One Child at a Time

Introduction to Foster Care

Welcome to the journey into understanding foster care, a system that offers a safe haven for children unable to live with their birth parents due to varying circumstances. These circumstances may encompass neglect, abuse, or other familial crises. In some situations, parents voluntarily place their children in foster care, recognizing their current inability to provide a stable environment.

At its core, the foster care system embodies the belief that every child deserves a safe, nurturing environment to grow. This system aims to offer these children a temporary home with the love, care, and support they need during challenging times.

The foster care system seeks to act as a supportive bridge, not severing the bond between the child and their birth family but fostering it where possible. The primary goal is family reunification.

This introduction to foster care is your first step towards appreciating the critical role this system plays
in protecting and nurturing vulnerable children.

The History of Foster Care

How Foster Care Has Evolved to Support Children in Need
  • 1562
  • 1854-1929
  • 1863
  • 1935
  • Mid-20th Century
  • 1980
  • 2018
  • Annually since 1988
  • Late 20th to Early 21st Century
  • 21st Century
  • English Poor Law

    This law allowed the placement of poor children into indentured service, essentially creating the earliest form of foster care.

  • The Orphan Train Movement

    Social reformer Charles Loring Brace initiated this movement to move children from overcrowded cities in the East to foster homes in the West.

  • End of Indenture System

    Massachusetts passed a law ending the practice of placing children into indentured service and instead favored supervised foster homes.

  • Child Welfare Act

    The first federal law to provide federal funds directly for foster care was passed.

  • Shift from Institutions

    A change in attitudes led to a move from institutional orphanages to home-based foster care.

  • Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act

    This act sought to keep families together by providing services and creating a review system to monitor the welfare of children in foster care.

  • Family First Prevention Services Act

    This act aimed to prevent children from entering foster care by providing families with support services. It also aimed to improve the quality of foster care.

  • National Foster Care Month

    First established by President Reagan, this annual celebration in May seeks to raise awareness of children in foster care and honor foster parents.

  • Increasing Emphasis on Kinship Care

    Efforts increased to place children with relatives or close family friends, known as “kinship care,” as an alternative to traditional foster care settings.

  • Modern Foster Care

    The contemporary foster care system continues to evolve, focusing on the best interest of the child, with goals of family reunification, adoption, or preparing older youths for independence.

Please note that exact dates may vary based on different sources, and this timeline provides a general historical overview rather than an exhaustive list of every development in the history of foster care.

Who Are Foster Children?

Foster children are diverse in age, background, and life experiences. They find themselves in the foster care system due to various circumstances beyond their control, such as neglect, abuse, or parental incapacity. All these children share one thing – the need for safety, support, and care.

The Process of Becoming a Foster Parent

Types of Foster Care

Questions You May Have

While both involve taking care of a child who’s not your biological offspring, they differ in permanency and legal rights. Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement where you fully assume the parental rights for a child. Foster care, on the other hand, is typically a temporary arrangement with the primary goal being reunification with the birth family, if possible.

Foster children don’t necessarily need their own room. They can often share a room with another child of the same gender and appropriate age, but they do need their own bed. The specific rules can vary by state and local regulations.

Yes, having pets does not disqualify you from becoming a foster parent. However, all pets should be safe and child-friendly. You might need to provide veterinary records to demonstrate that your pets are in good health and up-to-date with vaccinations.

Foster children, particularly those who have experienced trauma, might exhibit a range of behavioral challenges. These can include anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, difficulty in school, or trouble sleeping. Foster parent training will equip you with strategies to handle these behaviors and provide appropriate support.

If challenges arise that make it difficult for a placement to continue, the foster care agency will work with the foster family to find a solution. This could include additional support or training, therapy, or, in some cases, finding a new placement for the child.

In the United States, the IRS allows foster parents to claim foster children as dependents, provided they were in your care for over half the year. The stipend received for fostering is non-taxable. As always, consult a tax professional to understand how these rules apply to you.

Depending on the specifics of the child’s case and the legal status of the parents, you may need to involve them in decision-making, particularly for significant decisions like medical procedures. The agency caseworker can provide guidance on when and how to involve birth parents.

Yes, you can usually take your foster child on vacation. You may need to inform the agency and possibly get permission, particularly for out-of-state or international travel. It’s also crucial to ensure all the child’s medical and identification needs are covered for the trip.

Helping a child transition involves maintaining routines, offering reassurance, and encouraging open communication about their feelings. It’s also important to speak positively about the new home or the birth family to help the child adjust and feel secure about the change.

Understanding the foster care system is the first step towards making a profound difference in a child’s life. Whether you’re considering becoming a foster parent, or simply wish to lend your support to the cause, every action contributes to providing a safe and nurturing environment for these children.