AskDefine | Define fostering

Dictionary Definition



1 encouragement; aiding the development of something [syn: fosterage]
2 raising someone to be an accepted member of the community; "they debated whether nature or nurture was more important" [syn: breeding, bringing up, fosterage, nurture, raising, rearing, upbringing]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of foster


  1. raising someone to be an accepted member of the community.
  2. encouragement; aiding the development of something



Extensive Definition

Foster care is a system by which a certified, stand-in "parent(s)" cares for minor children or young peoples who have been removed from their birth 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 birth family can provide appropriate care or the rights of the birth parents 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. It also may include cases where children are placed with grandparents or other relatives, where the placement is likely to be permanent but those relatives don't want to fight the birth parents in court. 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 because it is believed such removal is necessary 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 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 States

In the United States, foster home licensing requirements vary from state to state but are generally overseen by each state's Department of Social Services or Human Services. In some states, counties have this responsibility. Each state's services are monitored by the federal Department of Health and Human Services through reviews such as Child and Family Services Reviews, Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Reviews, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System and Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System Assessment Reviews.
Children found to be unable to function in a foster home may be placed in Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) or other such group homes. In theory, 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 birth parents when applicable. But two major reviews of the scholarly literature have questioned these facilities' effectiveness.
Nearly half of foster kids in the U.S. become homeless when they turn 18.
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."

Funding and system incentives

A law passed by Congress in 1961 allowed AFDC (welfare) payments to pay for foster care which was previously made only to children in their own homes. This made aided funding foster care for states and localities, facilitating rapid growth In some cases, the state of Texas paid mental treatment centers as much as $101,105 a year per child. Observers of the growth trend note that a county will only continue to receive funding while it keeps the child in its care. This may create a "perverse financial incentive" to place and retain children in foster care rather than leave them with their parents, and incentives are sometimes set up for maximum intervention. A National Coalition for Child Protection Reform issue paper states "children often are removed from their families `prematurely or unnecessarily' because federal aid formulas give states `a strong financial incentive' to do so rather than provide services to keep families together."

Recent United States foster care legislation

On November 19, 1997, President Bill Clinton signed a new foster care law, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA), written by Cassie Statuto Bevan, ) which 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 the birth family the best option for the safety and well-being of the child. One of the main components of ASFA is the imposition of stricter time limits on reunification efforts. Proponents of ASFA claimed that before the law was passed, the lack of such legislation was the reason 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.
Time limits were in federal legislation as early as 1980, but they were never enforced. ASFA requires that the state identify a permanent plan for children who enter foster care.
Opponents of ASFA argued that the real reason children languished in foster care was that too many were taken needlessly from their parents in the first place. Since ASFA did not address this, opponents said, it would not accomplish its goals, and would only slow a decline in the foster care population that should have occurred anyway because of a decline in reported child abuse.
Ten years after ASFA became law, the number of children in foster care on any given day is only about 7,000 fewer than when ASFA was passed Children continue to languish in care and to be moved from placement to placement.
The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, also created by Bevan, in association with members of Congress, 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.
WLKY 32 News broke a story about mass corruption in child protective services.
In the last two years, family rights groups in North America and worldwide have been springing up, sharing the stories of children who face physical and sexual abuse in foster care and in the system.
Statistics show the 70% of the jail populaces have been in foster care.

Texas YFZ Ranch Raid

In the largest action of its kind, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in 2008 entered the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas with armed police. Although the search warrant was based on a tip that is believed to be fradulent, enough evidence was gathered for a judge to rule that every child of the single shared residence was either a victim of or at risk of abuse in danger of eventually becoming or marrying child "spiritual brides". Over 400 children were ordered to be forcibly removed to shelters, and many separated from their parents, pending placement in the Texas foster care system. Legal barriers for child protection were much lower than for criminal cases as mothers and children were interrogated without lawyers, and the removal of every child under CPS procedures which classify a complex community of 700 as a single household has been compared to arresting every child in a town and placing them in a makeshift prison camp. Family members were separated and isolated from one another, communications and in many cases visitation rights were forbidden. No charges or arrests were made against any adults, though CPS later admitted they had taken an adult, because she appeared to be a minor, under custody of the state. The Texas foster care system has recorded a number of poisonings, deaths, rapes and pregnancy among children under its care in state reports since 2004, with a death rate four times the general population of children. While there was much public support and legal justification for the action, one witness who assisted at the shelter testified that "wonderful loving women and children are being treated like convicts in a concentration camp by the state of Texas".


Home-based 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 home-based care are also on a care and protection order.
In some cases children are placed in home-based care following a child protection substantiation and where they are found to be in need of a safer and more stable 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 or crisis. In the significant number of cases substance abuse is a major contributing factor.
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 home-based care, every effort is made to reunite children with their families wherever possible.
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 This is consistent with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.
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. 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 the removal of the child(ren).
As with the majority of child protection services, states and territories are responsible for funding home-based care. Non-government organisations are widely used, however, to provide these services.
The Centre For Excellence In Child & Family Welfare has found that in Victoria the number of foster carers is declining while the number of children in care is increasing. This is putting a great strain on the foster care system of the state.
In Victoria, the largest provider of foster care is Anglicare Victoria, providing respite, emergency, long term and short term foster care, disability foster care and teenage foster care. 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 treatment

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 maltreated infants in his study exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment. Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing psychiatric problems. These children may be described as experiencing trauma as 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. Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms, as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.
The effects of early chronic maltreatment are seen in various domains which may require 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 may require specialized treatment.

Abuse and problems in foster care systems

Although foster care is one solution to protecting children from abuse, it is an imperfect system which is also associated with relatively high rates of abuse and risks. In Texas, the Family and Protective Services Crisis Management Team was created by executive order after the critical report Forgotten Children of 2004. Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn made a statement in 2006 about the Texas foster care system. In Fiscal 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively 30, 38 and 48 foster children died in the state's care. The number of foster children in the state's care increased 24 percent to 32,474 in Fiscal 2005, while the number of deaths increased 60 percent. Compared to the general population, a child is four times more likely to die in the Texas foster care system. In 2004, about 100 children were treated for poisoning from medications; 63 were treated for rape that occurred while under state care including four-year old twin boys, and 142 children gave birth.
The report stated that children were being unneccesarily neglected and abused and dying. A 12-year-old boy died in December 2005, suffocated while being restrained from behind by an employee of the facility. Another died May 30, after drowning in a creek during a bicycle outing. A three-year old was treated for poisoning from an atypical, mind-altering antipsychotic drug.
According to, 28% of children in state care were abused in Baltimore. 21% of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes In Louisiana. 57% of those in Missouri placed in foster care settings in 1981 were at a high risk of abuse or neglect. 25% of children in Kansas City foster care were the subject of abuse or inappropriate punishment. In Arizona, over 500 of an estimated 4,000 foster children, a figure representing at least 12.5 percent of the state's foster care population, have been sexually abused while in state care.
In the Wenatchee sex ring of the mid 1990s, a foster child who accused nearly every adult she knew placed with a detective sparked the one of history’s most extensive child sex abuse investigations. The investigations later fell apart with accusations of abuses by police and state social workers, and false confessions, child witnesses, and the discredited “recovered memory” theory.

Research on effects of foster care

A recent study by Dr. Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., suggests that, in America, foster care placements are detrimental to children who are near the margin of needing to be placed out of home. These children, especially when they are older, seem to fare better with their birth parents.


Further reading

External links

  • FPC offers affordable online training for foster, adoptive, and kinship parents. Using the World Wide Web, training is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • National Foster Parent Assoc A US non-profit organization that supports foster parents in achieving safety, permanence and well-being for the children and youth in their care.
  • FosterClub The national network for young people in foster care.
  • National Coalition for Child Protection Reform Advocacy organization that believes children often are wrongly removed when parents' poverty is confused with neglect.
  • Too many stops Audio documentary documenting former foster child's life story. Aired on CBC Radio Outfront on September 12, 2002.
  • The Fostering NetworkThe Fostering Network is the United Kingdom's leading charity for everyone with a personal or professional involvement in fostering.
  • 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, including online training for foster parents.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, Treatment Foster Care Program non-profit, faith-based, human service organization that provides treatment foster care services to children in the state of Virginia.
  • 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.
  • Experiences A site for people to read and share experinces about foster care.
fostering in German: Pflegeverhältnis
fostering in Spanish: Tutela
fostering in French: Tutelle
fostering in Hebrew: משפחת אומנה
fostering in Dutch: Pleegzorg
fostering in Japanese: 里親
fostering in Polish: Rodzina zastępcza (prawo)
fostering in Serbian: Породични смештај деце
fostering in Finnish: Huostaanotto
fostering in Swedish: Familjehem
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