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The Foster Care System

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

Foster care, also known as out-of-home care, provides temporary care to children who are unable to live with their families to ensure that they are given the necessities needed to thrive. Foster parents can be either related or unrelated to the children they are fostering; however, foster care homes are not limited to just the traditional parent-child system, but encompass

other settings, such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living. In the United States, the foster care system is overseen by each state’s Department of Children Protective Services or Human Services.

Over 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States. Children in foster care come in all ages, each with their own special circumstances. Due to this, children can live in foster care for some weeks while others stay within the system for years; the ultimate end goal of foster care is the reunification of the child with their parent(s) in a manner that is healthy and safe for both the children and the parents. Foster parents often work closely with their foster child’s social worker(s) to ensure the reunion of the child and their parent(s).

A license is required to operate a foster home, and such homes for foster children must meet the minimum personal, safety, and space requirements in order to begin fostering children. Foster parents are also given a monthly payment in order to care for the children under their care to guarantee that they are able to provide for and meet the material needs of the children they are fostering. Foster parents should also be able to emotionally and mentally support the foster children in their care. As a result, there is high demand for diversity in foster parents; children are placed in homes best suited to their personal needs, and allowing them to continue to live in an environment that represents their background and culture can aid them in feeling more at ease within their foster homes. Foster cares are, by virtue, temporary homes, but it is still a high priority that a child is able to feel welcome and comfortable with where they are placed.

Nearly half of all children who have been through the foster care system have been reunified with their parents while around a quarter of foster care children are adopted into new families, and many children are adopted by their foster parents as well. Foster care isn’t important for just younger children, but also for teenagers. Children are placed in foster care until they reach the legal age (eighteen in the United States); once they come of age and become an adult, they are let go from the foster care system. However, if a teeenager ages out of the foster care system without ever having a solid support system behind them, they are at greater risk for homelessness and often struggle not only financially, but also emotionally. Being able to create strong, long-lasting connections with foster parents are extremely important for teenagers who live out the remainder of their childhood in foster care prior to becoming an adult to secure an emotional foundation that is able to give them the support they need as they grow into an adult.


California Department of Social Services. Foster Care, CDSS Programs, Accessed 8 July 2022.

iFoster. How Does The Foster Care System Work?, iFoster, 22 October 2020, Accessed 8 July 2022.

KVC Health Systems. Foster Care in America: Realities, Challenges and Solutions, 30 March 2022, Accessed 8 July 2022.

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