Foster care is a protective service provided to children in the custody of the Department of Family Services. It provides substitute, temporary care (e.g., foster family home or other approved care) for a planned period of time when a child must be separated from his/her own parents or relatives because of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other issues endangering their health and/or safety.
Foster care also provides support services to birth families. The primary goal of foster care is to provide a safe place for a child while the biological parents focus on stability or until a suitable relative is identified.
The Foster Care and Adoption Program is based on a concurrent planning model, which aims to get children into safe, permanent care as quickly as possible. Concurrent planning involves foster families committing to the primary goal of reunification of the child or children with the biological family or extended relatives. At the same time, an alternative plan is developed for the permanent placement of the child, which may include adoption.
Children who come into foster care range in age from birth to 21 years old; most are 11 years old and older. These children come from diverse backgrounds and may have experienced abuse, neglect, or lived in families in need of supportive services. What they all share is the need to have a safe and stable environment, someplace where they can regain trust in their world, a sense of self-worth, a connection to a family, and to a community that offers guidance and understanding. This is where foster parents have an important role.
Foster parents provide a temporary, safe home for children in crisis. Children who need foster families have been separated from their birth family homes for reasons of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other issues endangering their health and/or safety. Many of these children are filled with fear, anger, confusion, or a sense of powerlessness at having been removed from the only home they have ever known.