Foster care is a system by which a certified, stand-in "parent(s)" cares for minor children or young people who have been removed from their biological parents or other custodial adults by state authority. Responsibility for the young person is assumed by the relevant governmental authority and a placement with another family found. There can be voluntary placements by a parent of a child into foster care. Foster placements are monitored until the biological family can provide appropriate care or the biological parental rights are terminated and the child is adopted. A third option, guardianship, is sometimes utilized in certain cases where a child cannot be reunified with their birth family and adoption is not right for them. This generally includes some older foster children who may be strongly bonded to their family of origin and unwilling to pursue adoption. Voluntary foster care may be utilized in circumstances where a parent is unable or unwilling to care for a child. For instance, a child may have behavioral problems requiring specialized treatment or the parent might have a problem which results in a temporary or permanent inability to care for the child(ren). Involuntary foster care may be implemented when a child is removed from their caregiver for his/her own safety. A foster parent receives monetary reimbursement from the placement agency for each child while the child is in his/her home to help cover the cost of meeting the child's needs. The amount of financial assistance typically varies from state to state and even city to city.

Requirements Edit

Requirements to be a foster parent vary by jurisdiction, as do monetary reimbursement and other benefits foster families may receive. Foster care is intended to be a temporary living situation for children and young people. The goal of foster care is to provide support and care for the young person in order that either reunification with parent(s) or other family members or another suitable permanent living arrangement can be facilitated. This may include an adoptive home, guardianship, or placement with a relative. At times, the bond that develops during foster care will lead to the foster parents adopting the child. In some instances, children may be placed in a long-term foster placement. For older adolescents, a foster care program may offer education and resources to prepare for a transition to independent living. That is not to say that older adolescents would not benefit from family placement, however, it is more difficult to recruit foster and adoptive parents for teens due to the stigma that is often attached to adolescents in foster care.

United StatesEdit

In the United States, foster home licensing requirements vary from state to state but are generally overseen by the state's Department of Social Services or Human Services.

Children found to be unable to function in a foster home may be placed in Residential Treatment Facilities (RTFs) or other such group homes. The focus of treatment in such facilities is to prepare the child for a return to a foster home, to an adoptive home, or to the biological parents when applicable.

Nearly half of foster kids in the U.S. become homeless when they turn 18.[1][2]

Throughout the 1990s experimental HIV drugs had been tested on HIV foster children at Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC) in Harlem. "Since then, ACS has been under fire from charges of inappropriately enrolling as many as 465 foster children in HIV clinical trials. The agency has also been accused of racism, some comparing the trials to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, as 98 percent of children in foster care in New York City are persons of color." [3]

Recent United States Foster Care Legislation Edit

On November 19, 1997, President Bill Clinton signed a new foster care law (The Adoption and Safe Families Act 1997, [4]) which dramatically reduced the time children are allowed to remain in foster care before being available for adoption. The new law requires state child welfare agencies to identify cases where "aggravated circumstances" make permanent separation of child from biological family the best option for the safety and well-being of the child. One of the main components of The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) is the imposition of time limits on reunification efforts. In the past, it was common for children to languish in care for years with no permanent living situation identified. They often were moved from placement to placement with no real plan for a permanent home. ASFA requires that the state identify a permanent plan for children who enter foster care. The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, AKA The Chafee Program, helps foster youth who are aging out of care to achieve self-sufficiency. The U.S. government has also funded the Education and Training Voucher Program in recent years in order to help youth who age out of care to obtain college or vocational training at a free or reduced cost. Chafee and ETV money is administered by each state as they see fit.


In Canada, a child may become a Crown ward and be placed under the care of the provincial government, usually through a local or regional agency known as the Children's Aid Society. If the Crown does not terminate the parent's rights, then the child will remain a "permanent Crown ward" until they reach eighteen years of age. Crown wards are able to apply for Extended Care through a Society which enables them to receive financial services from the provincial government as long as they remain in school or employed until they are up to twenty-five years of age.

Many children remain permanent Crown wards and are not adopted as there is no legislation mandating permanency within a specific time period. The amended Child and Family Services Act provides children and young people with the option of being adopted while still maintaining ties to their families.


Out-of-home care, which includes foster care, is provided to children who are in need of care and protection. Children and young people are provided with alternative accommodation while they are unable to live with their parents. As well as foster care, this can include placements with relatives or kin, and residential care. In most cases, children in out-of-home care are also on a care and protection order [5].

In some cases children are placed in out-of-home care following a child protection substantiation and where they are found to be in need of a more protective environment. In other situations parents may be incapable of providing adequate care for the child, or accommodation may be needed during times of family conflict. [6]. In the significant number of cases substance abuse is a contributing factor, most commonly alcohol abuse.

There is strong emphasis in current Australian policy and practice to keep children with their families wherever possible. In the event that children are placed in out-of-home care, efforts are made to reunite children with their families[7].

In the case of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in particular, but not exclusively, placing the child within the wider family or community is preferred[8]. This is consistent with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle[9].

Respite care is a type of foster care that is used to provide short-term (and often regular) accommodation for children whose parents are ill or unable to care for them on a temporary basis.[10]. It is also used to provide a break for the parent or primary carer to hopefully decrease the chances of the situation escalating to one which would lead to removal.

As with the majority of child protection services, states and territories are responsible for funding out-of-home care. Non-government organisations are widely used, however, to provide these services.[11].

The Centre for Excellencehas found that in Victoria the number of foster carers is declining while the number of children in care is increasing. This is putting strain on foster care system, as experienced by the non-government service providers.

In Victoria, the largest provider of foster care is Anglicare Victoria, providing respite, emergency, long term and short term foster care, disability care programs and adolescent care programs. Anglicare Victoria is currently involved in the Victorian Government’s pilot program in a move towards therapeutic approaches to foster care.

Effects of chronic maltreatment and treatmentEdit

The National Adoption Center found that 52% of adoptable children (meaning those children in U.S. foster care freed for adoption) had symptoms of attachment disorder. A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltread infants exhibited attachment disorder symptoms (disorganized subtype).[1]Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag. Tag has more than one name associated with reference. Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing severe psychiatric problems.[2][3] These children are likely to develop Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).[4][5] These children may be described as experiencing trauma-attachment problems. The trauma experienced is the result of abuse or neglect, inflicted by a primary caregiver, which disrupts the normal development of secure attachment. Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.[4][6][7] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[8] as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.[9][10]

The effects of early chronic maltreatment are seen in various domains and the result is Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which requires a multi-modal approach that directly addresses the underlying causative trauma and which seeks to build healthy and secure relationships with permanent caregivers. These children require specialized treatment,[11][12] such as Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Carlson, V., Cicchetti, D., Barnett, D., & Braunwald, K. (1995). Finding order in disorganization: Lessons from research on maltreated infants’ attachments to their caregivers. In D. Cicchetti & V. Carlson (Eds), Child Maltreatment: Theory and research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect (pp. 135-157). NY: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Gauthier, L., Stollak, G., Messe, L., & Arnoff, J. (1996). Recall of childhood neglect and physical abuse as differential predictors of current psychological functioning. Child Abuse and Neglect 20, 549-559
  3. Malinosky-Rummell, R. & Hansen, D.J. (1993) Long term consequences of childhood physical abuse. Psychological Bulletin 114, 68-69
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lyons-Ruth K. & Jacobvitz, D. (1999) Attachment disorganization: unresolved loss, relational violence and lapses in behavioral and attentional strategies. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.) Handbook of Attachment. (pp. 520-554). NY: Guilford Press
  5. Greenberg, M. (1999). Attachment and Psychopathology in Childhood. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.). Handbook of Attachment (pp.469-496). NY: Guilford Press
  6. Solomon, J. & George, C. (Eds.) (1999). Attachment Disorganization. NY: Guilford Press
  7. Main, M. & Hesse, E. (1990) Parents’ Unresolved Traumatic Experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status. In M.T. Greenberg, D. Ciccehetti, & E.M. Cummings (Eds), Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention (pp161-184). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  8. Carlson, E.A. (1988). A prospective longitudinal study of disorganized/disoriented attachment. Child Development 69, 1107-1128
  9. Lyons-Ruth, K. (1996). Attachment relationships among children with aggressive behavior problems: The role of disorganized early attachment patterns. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64, 64-73
  10. Lyons-Ruth, K., Alpern, L., & Repacholi, B. (1993). Disorganized infant attachment classification and maternal psychosocial problems as predictors of hostile-aggressive behavior in the preschool classroom. Child Development 64, 572-585
  11. Becker-Weidman, A., & Shell, D., (Eds.) (2005) Creating Capacity For Attachment, Wood 'N' Barnes, OK. ISBN 1-885473-72-9
  12. Becker-Weidman, A., (2006). Treatment for Children with Trauma-Attachment Disorders: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. Vol. 23 #2, April 2006.

Carlson, E.A. (1998). A prospective longitudinal study of disorganized/disoriented attachment. Child Development 69, 1107-1128

External links Edit

  • AICAN - Australian Intercountry Adoption Network
  • FosterClub The national network for young people in foster care.
  • Too many stops Audio documentary documenting former foster child's life story. Aired on CBC Radio Outfront on September 12, 2002.
  • International Foster Care OrganisationThe only charitable NGO solely devoted to the development of Foster Care with members in 50+ countries. Web site is in English & Spanish.
  • - Wiki-style site for everything adoption and foster.
  • Extensive resource about foster parenting and foster care.
  • Extensive resource about foster parenting and foster care
  • Non-profit organization providing free clothing, toys, and equipment to foster children throughout the state of Georgia.
  • Aging Out Aging Out is a documentary produced by PBS that chronicles the obstacles faced by teens who 'age out' of the foster care system.
  • The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in foster care, and exists to ensure that fostered children receive the highest standards of care.
  • Fostering - Adopting Older Children. A community of foster and adoptive parents and prospective parents of older children, sibling groups, teenagers, and other special needs children.
  • The Centre For Excellence In Child And Family Welfare is the primary source of information on foster care and becoming a carer in Victoria, Australia.
  • Stepchildren of the State: A Swedish association working for the rights of fosterchildren.
  • Pivotal Point Youth Services is a nonprofit organization that provides education support, employment training, vocational skills development, and entrepreneurship training to current and emancipating foster youth in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Elevate is a support and advocacy group for young people currently or recently in foster care. Elevate is based primarily in Iowa and is a program of Children and Families of Iowa.
  • Youthville is a nonprofit organization that provides foster care services to children and foster families in the state of Kansas.
  • California Youth Connection (CYC) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for foster care service reform in the State of California.

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