Foster Care

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An ideal environment for the social, emotional, and developmental growth of children does not always exist in today's society. Family units that have become separated due to family or behavior problems often contribute to delays in these areas. In order to promote continuity in the social, emotional, and developmental growth of children who have been victims of family disruption, children are often removed from the home and placed in foster care. Placement in the foster care system affects children in a unique, individual fashion. The affects of child-care by non-parental custodians, though subjective in nature, have common parameters that must be addressed and examined. Understanding foster care placement is crucial in order to fully evaluate both its advantages and disadvantages. WHAT IS FOSTER CARE?

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, "Foster care means 24-hour substitute care for all children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility." Though this definition excludes children in privately funded foster care arrangements, placement in a facility not governed by a state agency is often sought for children. Placement with either a state agency or a privately funded program can either be short-term lasting several months, or extend for a period of years as in long-term placement. The duration of time spent in the foster care system is dependent upon the existing home environment and the ability of the caregivers in the home to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child. An evaluation of both the present and pre-existing home environment is crucial in making the decision of whether to remove the child from foster care and reunite them with their parental custodians or to continue placement in the foster care system. FOSTER CARE PLACEMENT

Though it is difficult to separate a child from his parental custodians, foster care placement is deemed necessary in situations of abuse or neglect. Severe behavioral problems on the part of the child as well as a variety of parental problems, including abandonment, illness (either physical or emotional), incarcerations, alcohol/substance abuse, and death, are also reasons deemed legitimate to warrant removal from the home. A child, who has been subjected to this type of environment, needs to be provided an opportunity of security and caring. Foster care is often the answer to break this cycle.

Reasons for foster care placement vary, as does the length of intervention. Although foster care placement is intended to serve as a temporary haven until children can safely return to their family, for many children it does not serve this purpose. This is the result of children moving from placement to placement, which undermines the efforts to promote stability and continuity in the life of the child. Failure to find a satisfactory and suitable foster care arrangement can be as detrimental to a child as the environment from which he or she was removed. Children of all ages, ethnicities, and genders enter the foster care system. A dramatic increase in foster care placement has occurred over the last ten years. Over 500,000 children currently reside in some form of foster care. An analysis of data has provided statistical information concerning the age, ethnicity, and gender of children placed in foster care. African-American children make up approximately two thirds of the foster care population. The average age of children in foster care is 10.6 years. The proportion of male and female children in the system is nearly equal, though there is a slightly higher percentage of males than females, 52% to 48%. EFFECTIVE FOSTER CARE

The ultimate objective of foster care is to promote the well being of the whole child by providing a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for the child. In order to facilitate the healthy development...
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