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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the modern child welfare system of placing children in state custody in the homes of temporary caregivers. For the (sometimes historical) social practice of children being raised by families not their own, see Fosterage.

Foster care is a system by which a certified, stand-in "parent(s)" cares for minor children or young people who have been removed from their birth parents or other custodial adults by state authority.

Responsibility for the young person is assumed by the relevant governmental authority and a placement with another family found. There can be voluntary placements by a parent of a child into foster care. Foster care is just a short term alternative while on the way to determining one of the three permanent plans for the child. According to Dorsey et al.. [1], the three permanent plans are:

“Reunification with the biological parent, conversion of the foster home to a legally-permanent guardianship or adoption, or placement of the child into another legally permanent family” (p. 1404).

Foster placements are monitored until the birth family can provide appropriate care or the rights of the birth parents are terminated and the child is adopted. A third option, guardianship, is sometimes utilized in certain cases where a child cannot be reunified with their birth family and adoption is not right for them.


5.2 Problems within the United States Foster Care System
5.2.1 Lack of available foster parents
5.2.2 Foster children not being prepared for adulthood
5.2.3 Agency and Housing disregard for human rights of Foster children
5.2.4 Example: NYC foster care
5.2.5 Example: Texas YFZ Ranch Raid
5.2.6 Research on effects of foster care


Based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services submitted as of January 16th, 2008, there are more than 500,000 children in the foster care systems throughout the United States (1). Currently the trend is showing more children entering the system than exiting. Amongst the children who are currently placed, there are approximately 20,000 children who will emancipate or age out of the system this year (1). This is quite a frightening thought for these youths, who essentially have not been able to adapt a permanent and stable structure that would have prepared them for the challenges they would be facing as adults.

Nearly half of foster kids in the U.S. become homeless when they turn 18.[9][10]

Although foster care is one solution to protecting children from abuse, it is an imperfect system which is also associated with relatively high rates of abuse and risks. In Texas, the Family and Protective Services Crisis Management Team was created by executive order after the critical report Forgotten Children of 2004. Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn made a statement in 2006 about the Texas foster care system.[11] In Fiscal 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively 30, 38 and 48 foster children died in the state's care. The number of foster children in the state's care increased 24 percent to 32,474 in Fiscal 2005, while the number of deaths increased 60 percent. Compared to the general population, a child is four times more likely to die in the Texas foster care system. In 2004, about 100 children were treated for poisoning from medications; 63 were treated for rape that occurred while under state care including four-year old twin boys, and 142 children gave birth.

The report stated that children were being unnecessarily neglected and abused and dying. A 12-year-old boy died in December 2005, suffocated while being restrained from behind by an employee of the facility. Another died May 30, after drowning in a creek during a bicycle outing. A three-year old was treated for poisoning from an atypical, mind-altering antipsychotic drug.

According to, 28% of children in state care were abused in Baltimore. 21% of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes In Louisiana. 57% of those in Missouri placed in foster care settings in 1981 were at a high risk of abuse or neglect. 25% of children in Kansas City foster care were the subject of abuse or inappropriate punishment. In Arizona, over 500 of an estimated 4,000 foster children, a figure representing at least 12.5 percent of the state's foster care population, have been sexually abused while in state care.

In the Wenatchee sex ring of the mid 1990s, a foster child who accused nearly every adult she knew placed with a detective sparked the one of history’s most extensive child sex abuse investigations. The investigations later fell apart with accusations of abuses by police and state social workers, and false confessions, child witnesses, and the discredited “recovered memory” theory.

Throughout the 1990s experimental HIV drugs had been tested on HIV foster children at Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC) in Harlem. "Since then, ACS has been under fire from charges of inappropriately enrolling as many as 465 foster children in HIV clinical trials. The agency has also been accused of racism, some comparing the trials to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, as 98 percent of children in foster care in New York City are persons of color."[12]

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In the largest action of its kind, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in 2008 entered the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas with armed police. Although the search warrant was based on a tip that is believed to be fraudulent, enough evidence was gathered for a judge to rule that every child of the single shared residence was either a victim of or at risk of abuse in danger of eventually becoming or marrying child "spiritual brides". Over 400 children were ordered to be forcibly removed to shelters, and many separated from their parents, pending placement in the Texas foster care system. Legal barriers for child protection were much lower than for criminal cases as mothers and children were interrogated without lawyers, and the removal of every child under CPS procedures which classify a complex community of 700 as a single household has been compared to arresting every child in a town and placing them in a makeshift prison camp. Family members were separated and isolated from one another, communications and in many cases visitation rights were forbidden. No charges or arrests were made against any adults, though CPS later admitted they had taken an adult, because she appeared to be a minor, under custody of the state. The Texas foster care system has recorded a number of poisonings, deaths, rapes and pregnancy among children under its care in state reports since 2004, with a death rate four times the general population of children. While there was much public support and legal justification for the action, one witness who assisted at the shelter testified that "wonderful loving women and children are being treated like convicts in a concentration camp by the state of Texas".[13]

A recent study by Dr. Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., suggests that, in America, foster care placements are detrimental to children who are near the margin of needing to be placed out of home. These children, especially when they are older, seem to fare better with their birth parents.[14][15]

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