Facts About Foster Care
The Media often portrays foster care in a negative light, reporting only on the adversities of the child welfare system. Foster care gives children a second chance and an opportunity to be raised in a stable environment. Here are the facts that you should know about foster care.
What is Foster Care
Foster care provides children with an alternative to living in an unsafe environment. It is a system in which a minor is placed either with a relative or close family friend, in a group home, or in the care of an agency-certified foster family as a substitute for a child’s unsuitable living situation. Becoming more common in recent years, children have been formally placed in foster care with a relative, such as grandparents, this is called kinship care. Foster care can also be used for children who have suddenly lost a parent or are homeless.
Who is in Foster Care
Nationally, 400,540 children spent time in the foster care system during the 2011 Federal fiscal year (October 1st through September 30th). The average age of a child in foster care is about 9-10 years old while the next largest age group being children between the ages of 11-15 years old. The majority of the children in foster care are boys, at 52%, while 48% are girls. For race demographics, there are more children of color in the system compared to the overall U.S. population, but child abuse and neglect occur at about the same rate in all ethnic groups.
Reasons for Foster Care
There are many reasons why foster care would be needed for a child. Foster care placement may be required due to accusations of physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse on the part of the parent or primary caregiver, or neglect of the child. An adolescent with repeat run-ins with the law may also result in placement into foster care.
Goals of Foster Care
The most common case plan goal of 2011 was reunification; to reunite children with their parents or principal caretakers once the situation is deemed appropriate and safe for them to be returned. This was the goal of 52% of the cases. The second largest case plan goal for children in foster care was adoption at 25%. Other common case plan goals include: establishing guardianship, emancipation, or in rare cases long-term foster care.
Choosing the Best Foster Home for a Child
Physical, emotional, and safety needs of the child are some of the main considerations when choosing a foster home for a child in need foster care placement. Other reasons include proximity to the child’s family and school, keeping siblings together, and the special skills or attributes of the foster family.
The 2011 report listed 52% of children in foster care where reunited with parent(s) or with a primary caretaker, 8% were placed with a relative, 20% were adopted, 11% emancipated, 6% entered into guardianship, 2% were transferred to another agency, and 1% were reported as runaways. On average, children spend 23.9 months in the foster care system. 10% of children spend five or more years in the foster care system.
SOURCE: Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2011 data