A foster child is a child who is temporarily under the care of someone other than his or her parents, by order of the government. Children can be placed in foster care for a number of different reasons. As a general rule, fostering is regarded as a short term solution which is intended to provide immediate care for the child while a long term solution which is in the best interests of the child is determined.
Sometimes, parents voluntarily surrender children to foster care because they cannot care for them. In other instances, children are taken from their parents by the government after investigation demonstrates that the children are not being given adequate care. While in foster care, the government is considered the official guardian, but the child is placed in the home of someone else.
One option for a foster child is a group home, a home in which numerous foster children live together while they are under the guardianship of the state. These homes may be run by the government, by private organizations, or by individuals. Another option is a private foster home which may include one or more foster children under the care of someone who has been certified by the government as a foster parent. Private homes are often regarded as providing the most stable and supportive home, because they are the most similar to a conventional household.
Many agencies focus on trying to reunite children with their parents whenever possible. For example, if a child is placed in foster care because of homelessness, government representatives might help the parents get stable jobs and a place to live so that the child can be reunited with his or her parents. In other cases, parents may surrender their parental rights to a foster child, allowing the child to be formally adopted by the foster parents or another set of parents. The state may also opt to terminate parenting rights and place the child in an adoptive home if the government feels that the parents will never be able to provide appropriate care.
A foster child is not necessarily automatically eligible for adoption, although it is a definite possibility. For some foster children, unfortunately, a state of limbo is created where the child cannot be adopted, and is instead moved between foster homes. This can create emotional and physical stress for the child.
People who are interested in taking a foster child into their homes can apply with the government agency which handles placing of children for fostering. A home inspection will be required and prospective foster parents may also need to take parenting classes and successfully demonstrate that they are prepared in an interview. Once approved, a foster parent will be placed on a list, and contacted when a foster child needs a place to live. The government usually provides people with a small stipend to compensate for the expenses associated with caring for a foster child.