Foster care is a type of living arrangement in which a child or minor is placed under the care and supervision of group home or a caregiver. This is often done in situations where the child’s parents are unavailable (not present), incapacitated (not capable), or cannot be located.
The person, or persons, in charge of caring for the child are typically called foster parents. These people share legal decision making rights and custody with the state. This is generally done through welfare agencies or child protective services. Foster parents are responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the child such as:
- Feeding and clothing the child;
- Monitoring their behavior;
- Providing various other necessities and basics; and
- Ensuring their safety and protection.
This includes making sure the child attends school and other requirements set by the system, like attending therapy sessions and keeping in touch with siblings if they have been separated. Major legal decisions involving the child can be made by a foster parent, but they must generally be approved by the family court.
There are a few different types of foster care arrangements. These consist of:
- Group Homes: These are care facilities that usually consist of six or more children. They are subject to many strict federal and state regulations. In these types of foster care arrangements, the foster parent is often a state welfare worker or a certified caretaker; and
- Kinship Care: This is the full-time care of a minor by a close relative, stepparent, guardian, or other adult. The person selected for this type of care is usually someone who already has a close relationship or background with the child.
In many instances, group home arrangements are being phased out in favor of kinship care arrangements. This is because many states are seeing the advantage of having a foster parent who already has a relationship with the child.
Kinship care however must also be approved by a family court and is generally monitored by state child protective services. There are many requirements that must be met and maintained in order to become a foster parent.
Foster care is a complex subject that often involves various legal issues and concerns. Important legal issues commonly associated with foster care may include:
- Custody Rights: As mentioned above, custody rights generally lie with the state. Usually, the foster parent acts to secure basic provisions and perform daily duties.
- Adoption: Many foster care situations eventually lead to adoption by either the foster parent(s) or another person seeking to adopt a child. “Foster to adopt” occurs when the child is placed in foster care with the intention that they will be adopted soon thereafter by the foster parents.
- Abuse: Many children are placed in a foster home due to instances of previous abuse by a parent. On the other hand, group homes have sometimes been linked to abusive situations, especially in cases where the certified foster parent or parents have not been closely monitored.
On the whole, foster care has traditionally been a way to secure safety and provisions for children who may have experienced issues like neglect or abandonment. The existence of foster care helps to prevent concerns like truancy and delinquency among youth and children.
Each state may have different details, but a foster parent must usually:
- Be at least 21 years of age;
- Have a steady source of financial income;
- Not have any felony convictions;
- Submit to assessments of close family members; and
- Participate in required parental training instruction or courses.
They must also submit to inspection of their home, to make sure that the home is suitable for another addition and that there is space for the child to live.
Foster parent’s rights under the laws will also vary according to state statutes. They may also vary depending on their interactions with a welfare agency or other similar agency. Foster parent rights usually include the right to:
- Receive payment for their parental services;
- Maintain the integrity or arrangement of their own family unit;
- Contract certain rights in agreement with a welfare agency;
- Punish a child to the same extent a natural parent would be able to;
- Be immune from the child’s criminal acts in some cases; and
- Possibly terminate the natural parents’ rights.
Remember, each state has their requirements and while many of them overlap, they may have unique requirements that they don’t share with other states. If you seriously wish to consider being a foster parent, then check your state’s requirements and first see if you qualify.
As you can see, foster care arrangements can involve many different laws and regulations, and are subject to close monitoring by the state. You may need to hire a family law attorney in your area if you have any legal issues, inquiries, or conflicts involving foster care and the various issues involved in it. Especially if you wish to be a kinship foster parent, meaning you wish to take in your niece/nephew.
Foster care requires a lot of interaction with the state; hiring a family lawyer near you can ensure that you are complying with state requirements which can make the process as painless as possible for the children involved. Also, if you need to file any type of document with the court, or if you need to appear in court, your lawyer can assist you at those times and can provide representation for you as well.