While everyone has probably heard of foster care, not everyone is familiar with how it works and how children end up in it. Essentially, foster care is here to support children when their basic needs are not met in their own homes.
There are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States according to Children’s Rights, a nonprofit organization focused on childcare systems. If you’re curious about the top reasons why kids enter the system and what should you do if your child is placed in a foster home, you’ve come to the right place.
Top reasons for children entering the foster care system
The foster care system is established to provide the care that a child needs at this point in their lives. If it is found out that the environment or the persons surrounding a child is not beneficial or conducive to their growth and development, social workers can step in and take the child away.
Here are some of the most common reasons why children are taken into the system:
- Abuse – Whether it’s physical or sexual, no child must be subjected to any form of abuse. Children are physically weaker and more inexperienced mentally and emotionally, and any harm geared toward these aspects is considered dangerous. However, specific standards on abuse may vary from place to place.
- Death of a guardian – Usually, when parents or guardians of a child die, other relatives like grandparents, aunts, and uncles step forward to take custody of the child. In the event that no other eligible adult is available, the child is taken into the system.
- Abandonment – This occurs when a child is supposedly left in the temporary care of another and the parents no longer return, or when the child is left in a place without supervision for an extended period of time.
- Incarcerated guardian – Similarly, if the parent or guardian is sentenced to prison and no other eligible adult can take care of the kid, the social service then takes over.
- Medical reasons – If the legal guardian is rendered incapable of providing additional care and no other relatives are available, then the child might be endorsed to foster care. Similarly, a birth parent’s conscious decision not to seek medical care for a special need that can put the kid’s life in danger could also be a reason for a child to be taken into custody.
- Neglect – Raising a child is a particularly demanding responsibility. Although the parents or guardians are there but do not provide sufficient shelter, food, or emotional support, then foster care can still take over.
- Truancy – Children who don’t go to school for extended periods of time also cause concern for the school administrators and members of the community. Parents are also responsible for ensuring that their children continue to go to school. The lack of an acceptable reason could leave parents without custody of the child.
- Voluntary – Although rare, some parents voluntarily enter their child into the system. There are various reasons for doing so, but the most common reasons involve the parent assessing themselves to be no longer capable of providing for the child. It might be financial, physical, or even health-related.
What to do if your child is taken into foster care
Although taking children into foster care is primarily to protect them from further physical, emotional, or mental harm, it’s not always a mutual decision among parties. There are incidents where the parents, under some unfortunate circumstances, have to relinquish custody of the child. If you’re a parent or a guardian whose child has been entered into foster care, here are some of the things you should know.
First and foremost, there must be a valid reason for the intervention of the social service personnel. Let’s say you’ve fallen on hard times or have encountered a problem and the system found you no longer fit to take care of a child. The first thing to do is to address the source of concern.
For adults who subjected their kids to neglect or abuse due to substance dependency, sobering up and joining programs is a good way to start. If you’re a single parent with a physically abusive partner, it’s time to choose between your child and your partner.
Should social services deem you capable and worthy, they usually return your child to you. However, take note that it might include regular visits or assessment processes for you, your environment, and your child before full custody is returned.
Unfortunately, there are cases where change is hard to prove or the odds are simply stacked against you. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a trusted family lawyer for professional advice on how to proceed in getting your child back.