Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot take care of them and whose need for care has come to the attention of child welfare agency staff. A minor will be placed into a ward, group home, or private home of a state-certified caregiver, referred to as a “foster parent” or with a family member approved by the state. The placement of the child is normally arranged through the government or a social service agency.  

Over half of children who enter foster care return to their families. 

How long children stay in foster care depends on their family situation and what options are available in their communities. For some children, their stay in foster care is brief; for others foster care lasts one to three years or, in some cases, longer. A key goal of foster care programs is to ensure that children live in stable, lifelong families, since secure attachment to at least one parenting adult is crucial to healthy child development and well-being.  

On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States.  On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and six percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years. There continue to be many that “age out” of the system, meaning when they turn 18 they are on their own. 

There are many children in foster care come from all backgrounds—most share a background of abuse or neglect. They can be newborns, toddlers, or teenagers. They come from every state, race, religion, and socio-economic group. In too many instances, their parents have unresolved substance abuse issues that contributes to the need for the children to go into foster care. 

There is an urgent need for families to care for: 

Trauma from their past influences the behavior of children in foster care. They’ve learned habits that helped keep them safe—habits which can negatively impact how they relate to the world around them. As a foster or adoptive family, you can offer a safe home and a chance to replace old habits with new ones. Training is offered to help you understand the trauma they’ve experienced and to effectively care for them. 

There are two ways to adopt children from foster care: the first is foster-to-adopt; the second is adopt a waiting child. Regardless of the path you take, adopting through foster care is an attractive option for those seeking to grow their families: 

  • avoids fees associated with private adoption 
  • free preparatory training to help you navigate the inevitable bumps along the way 
  • Medicaid support for each child, with other subsidies available on an as-needed basis 
  • comprehensive post-adoptive support