Foster care refers to a variety of living situations in which a child may be placed outside the home because the conditions at home are unsafe. Typically a child will be removed from home because of severe abuse or neglect. Once a child has entered foster care, it is important that he or she be placed in a family-based setting within the community. It is also important that the time spent in foster care be as brief as possible.
The children may be any age from birth through eighteen. All have either experienced or been in immediate danger of experiencing neglect or abuse. In many ways they are like other children we know, except they are in need of a safe and developmentally appropriate home. Many of these placements are temporary, with reunification with the biological family as the goal. Children enter foster care not because they have done something wrong, but because the situation in their home was not safe for children.
When leaving foster care, the child should be discharged to a permanent placement (i.e. returned to home, adopted, or had custody transferred to a relative).
Children who age out of the foster care system, those who reach age 18 without achieving a permanent home environment, often face lifetime challenges, including homelessness, incarceration, and a lack of educational attainment.