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The top 6 questions about fostering, answered

Maybe you’re a non-partnered person looking to grow your family or you have a family member struggling with raising their child and want to officially offer support. Maybe you and your partner are struggling with infertility. Or maybe you just finished binging the ABC drama, The Fosters. Whatever the reason, if you’re interested (or potentially interested) in fostering, you probably have questions. Ahead, your answers, though keep in mind that some of these will vary by state.

1. What is fostering, exactly? 

Fostering is a commitment to provide care for a foster child for as long as they need. 

This care can and should include: 

  • supporting the child emotionally and mentally
  • offering advice or guidance, as needed
  • advocating on behalf of the foster child
  • helping the child find activities that bring them joy 
  • erect and enforce fair boundaries
  • promote healthy contact between the foster child and their original parent

How long a child needs to be in foster care depends on their specific situation and the circumstances. Almost all of the roughly 400,00 children in foster care in the U.S. have living biological parents or family. And the goal of foster care should always be reunification. Fostering allows these children (with an average age of just 6 years old) to live in a nurturing family environment and avoid an institutional or group home placement.

2. How long are children in foster care? 

The short answer: temporarily. 

Foster care is a temporary arrangement that gives children access to a loving, stable home while their original parents work towards greater stability. In some instances this takes just a few days or a few weeks. However, in other instances, it may take months or years for this to take place. 

If a child’s parent(s) or other biological family is unable to meet system standards, that child may be placed for adoption. 

3. Who adopts a foster child? 

Although these cases vary widely by state, in cases where a foster child can be adopted, foster parents usually have the first right of refusal. Instances when a foster parent later adopts their foster child are known as a foster-to-adopt pipeline. 

In instances where a fostering situation is not a viable long-term solution, the child may be adopted by another individual or family that has been vetted by the state.

4. How long does it take to get approved as a foster parent? 

For however long it takes for the foster parent applications to: fill out an application, be interviewed, undergo background checks, participate in a home study, attend an educational series on parenting and fostering, and whatever else the particular state requires. 

On average, this process takes at least  6 months.

5. What rights does a foster parent have?

Foster parents provide support to, advocate for, and cherish their foster child(ren). 

However, the original (usually birth) parents may make many of the decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and religious affiliations.

In some states, foster parents are not even able to bring their foster child for a haircut without permission.

6. What kind of support do foster parents receive? 

Foster parents have access to financial, emotional, and logistical support. 

On the financial front, foster parents typically receive subsidies to cover expenses such as food, housing, clothing, and other essentials. 

Every foster child will have a case-manager, who is responsible for knowing the child, their personality, and the specifics of their circumstances. This case manager is in charge of preparing the foster family for the child’s arrival, helping the two parties acclimate to one another, and coordinating visits between the foster child and their original parents, when possible. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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