Foster Care

Your Foster Care Options

Foster care is a great way to become a parent, and it’s sometimes easier to foster than adopt.

There are 7 types of foster care to explore:

Long-Term or Permanent Foster Care
A child may enter into foster care and expect a short-term fostering placement, but something can happen which makes it impossible for her to return home; or a family may choose long-term fosterig instead of adoption because of an anticipated high level of support; or an older child will be adamant that he doesn’t want to be adopted.

These three reasons can lead to long-term (or permanent) fostering. Long-term/permanent fostering allows the child to remain in care until she is a legal adult.

A stable long-term foster placement is helpful to the child and foster parents, but there is no sense of security because “permanent” fostering is generally not considered the best option by social services. Foster care subsidy stops at 18 years of age; and foster children will not inherit if parents die without a will. Foster parents must name foster children in their wills if they want foster children to inherit.

Pre Adoption Foster Care
Also known as “transitional foster care” and “cradle care,” this kind of placement is generally for infants. The babies may need adoption but a family may not be available; or there may be a period of time before placement while parental rights are terminated; or babies may also be placed in transitional care while birthparents make a final decision on an adoption placement.

Pre-adoption placements can be made immediately after birth and straight from the hospital. The amount of contact with birthfamily members will depend on individual arrangements.

Respite Care
Respite care is short-term care of a very dependent or difficult child. Some children require intensive care. Respite care allows the parents – birth, foster or adoptive – to take a break.

Some respite carers eventually may be asked to adopt a child. Some respite carers will have had special training to care for the needs of handicapped or challenging children. This kind of foster care may be suitable for those who need to know that a placement will be very short. Respite care will almost never be longer than a couple of weeks, and is very often measured in hours or days.

Short Term Foster Care
This type of foster care provides short-term care to children whose parents may be experiencing special or emergency needs (such as medical emergency with no other child-care resources). There is often considerable contact with the family who are emotionally close to the children.

Therapeutic or Treatment Foster Care
This is also called “Special Rate Foster Care.” Children who may have been allowed to become delinquent, drug users, or in trouble with the law may benefit from theraeutic or treatment foster care. A corps of highly-trained specialist foster parents exist to look after these children. These foster parents are very experienced, and often have stable families of their own. They have extensive education in techniques of dealing with ill, troubled and difficult children.

Therapeutic fostering may become a profession and the pay scale is appropriate for the amount of training and experience involved. As in long-term fostering, many of these kids develop permanent relationships with their foster parents. Most states limit the number of children with treatment or therapeutic needs who can be placed in one home unless it is a licensed Group Home.

Traditional or Rehabilitation Foster Care
This kind of fostering is usually for children taken from their parents because of neglect or abuse. It is done with hope that the parents’ behavior can be changed for family reunification. While the child is being fostered, the parents will be going through re-education (or therapy), and their progress will be closely monitored by social services and the foster parents.

This kind of fostering can be stressful for the foster parents, especially if the children are returned to what they think are unsatisfactory home situations. In some cases the birthparents may eventually decide that the children will be better in permanent new families.

In the U.S., the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (PL 105-89) requires states, in the case of children under the age of 10, to initiate or join proceedings to terminate parental rights for parents who have not met rehabilitation goals in 18 months in an effort to allow these children the opportunity to find permanent families more quicky and minimize their time in foster care.

Fost Adopt
Fost-Adopt programs were created to bridge the gap between a child’s initial need for temporary care and the long-term need for a permanent home. The main reason for making such a placement is to spare the child another move if adoption is considered a likely outcome. In Fost-Adopt programs, social workers place the child with specially-trained fost-adopt parents before the child’s biological parents’ parental rights have been permanently terminated. Key features of fost-adopt programs (also known as foster-adopt and foster-to-adopt) include:


  • placement with a fost-adopt family before the child’s biological parents’ parental rights have been terminated;
  • efforts at family reunification may be ongoing, or biological parents may be appealing a decision to terminate their parental rights;
  • the children are considered unlikely to return to the biological family;
  • foster parents agree to adopt the child if/when the biological parents’ parental rights are terminated;
  • foster parents act as guardians during this time.

A high percentage of children placed in fost-adopt families are very young (sometimes infants). This type of placement is a legal-risk placement because the court could return the child to the biological family.

More Definitions