Foster Care

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Foster care homes are important for children that need a safe place to live. These homes are only provided temporarily and usually in an urgent situation. Children are often placed in a foster home because they have been removed from their family. Foster parents are then crucial to the welfare of the child, and often work closely with teachers, attorneys, social workers, doctors, and other agency officials. Foster parents are not there to replace the child's family; however, foster children have crucial needs for which a foster parent must provide. These needs are not just food and shelter, but rather, the needs include support, encouragement, reassurance, self-esteem, self-worth, and most importantly, love.

Over 500,000 children in the U.S. currently reside in some form of foster care. Placements in foster care have dramatically increased over the past 10 years. Nearly half of today's population of foster kids is under the age of ten. Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, drug problems, alcohol problems, and sexual abuse are just some of the reasons that result in a child being removed from his or her home. Making decisions about the future for a child in foster care is called "permanency planning." Options include: returning the child to his/her birth parents; termination of parental rights (a formal legal procedure) to be followed, hopefully, by adoption; or long-term care with foster parents or relatives.

Social service agencies nationwide are experiencing a shortage of foster and adoptive parents willing to tackle the complexities of providing safe, loving homes to neglected and abused children. Working with an emotionally fractured child can be challenging to any seasoned social worker or therapist, even those with vast years of experience and solid training. However, the daunting and complex task of mending a maltreated child often lies in the hands of foster and adoptive parents who take such children into their families.

Some problems that a foster parent needs to be able to handle include setting discipline in the home, dealing with bed-wetting, lying, aggressiveness and rebellion. Foster parents need to act as any other parents, but with the added challenge of dealing with a child that has a troubled background and an already inflated fear of rejection. They need to provide a sense of belonging, acceptance, and love; however, these needs are usually met by the result of a small success following an enduring struggle with many early failures. And many times it is the case that after all this effort is put into a relationship with a foster child, the foster parent must be able to let go if the child needs to be relocated or placed back with his or her biological family.

Adoption is often a consideration for foster parents. In fact, about two-thirds of the children placed in foster care are later adopted by their foster parents.

If you are interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please contact your State's adoption or foster care specialist. They will be more than happy to discuss with you the process of training and approval of your home.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,