FOSTER CARE
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
FOSTER CARE

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. Despite the increasing numbers, children in foster care and foster parents are mostly invisible in communities and often lack many needed supports and resources. In situations of abuse and neglect, children may be removed from their parents' home by a child welfare agency and placed in foster care. Other reasons for foster placement include severe behavioral problems in the child and/or a variety of parental problems, such as abandonment, illness (physical or emotional), incarceration, AIDS, alcohol/substance abuse, and death.

African-American children make up approximately two thirds of the foster care population and remain in care longer. Two out of three children who enter foster care are reunited with their birth parents within two years. A significant number, however, can spend long periods of time in care awaiting adoption or other permanent arrangement. Making decisions about the future for a child in foster care is called Apermanency 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. Most states encourage efforts to provide the birth parents with support and needed services (e.g. mental health or drug/alcohol treatment, parent skills, training and assistance with child care and/or adequate housing) so their child can be returned to them. When parental rights have been terminated by the court, most states will try to place children with relatives (A kinship foster care or Arelative placement) which may lead to adoption by the relative.

Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child. Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems. Physical health problems are also common. Most children, however, show remarkable resiliency and determination to go on with their lives. Children in foster care often struggle with the following issues:

  • blaming themselves and feeling guilty about removal from their birth parents
  • wishing to return to birth parents even if they were abused by them
  • feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for a long time
  • feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster parents over time
  • having mixed emotions about attaching to foster parents
  • feeling insecure and uncertain about their future
  • reluctantly acknowledging positive feelings for foster parents

Foster parents open their homes and hearts to children in need of temporary care, a task both rewarding and difficult. Unfortunately, there has been a decrease in the number of foster parents (non-relative) available to care for children over the past 10 years. This results in larger numbers of children remaining in institutional settings. The number of relative caregivers (kinship foster care), however, has increased.

Reimbursement rates for foster parents are lower in most states than the true costs of providing routine care for the child. Important challenges for foster parents include:

  • recognizing the limits of their emotional attachment to the child
  • understanding mixed feelings toward the child's birth parents
  • recognizing their difficulties in letting the child return to birth parents
  • dealing with the complex needs (emotional, physical, etc.) of children in their care
  • working with sponsoring social agencies
  • finding needed support services in the community
  • dealing with the child's emotions and behavior following visits with birth parents

Children in foster care who have emotional or behavioral problems may be referred for a psychiatric evaluation. Some child and adolescent psychiatrists provide consultation to Juvenile/Family Courts and child welfare agencies. Child and adolescent psychiatrists also provide comprehensive evaluations including diagnosis and the development of treatment plans. They also provide direct treatment (e.g. psychotherapy, family therapy, psychiatric medication) to a child. Children in foster care have special and complex needs which are best addressed by a coordinated team which usually includes the birth parents, foster parents, mental health professionals (including child and adolescent psychiatrists) and child welfare staff.

For additional information about foster care contact the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) 440 First Street, NW, Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20001-2085. For information on related issues, see other Facts for Families (#09 Child Sexual Abuse; #05 Child Abuse- The Hidden Bruises; #15 The Adopted Child; #08 Children and Grief).

Article #64 Updated 8/98

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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