Social work has long been involved in child foster care. Though its initial involvement de-emphasized the importance of infant–caregiver attachment, Bowlby’s theory of attachment is particularly relevant for child-welfare practice. This entry chronicles the history of child foster care and describes the evolution of legislation most pertinent for the provision of foster care. The characteristics of children in foster care since 2000 and the dynamic flow of children entering and exiting care are described. A brief account of foster care services and future trends in the field are highlighted.
Joyce E. Everett
Carole B. Cox
Kinship care refers to the full time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives or others with a kinship bond to a child. Although such care is offered by many in relationships to children and is defined by states in many ways, the majority of kinship caregivers are grandparents. Among the primary reasons that children enter kinship care are parental substance abuse, neglect, abandonment, parental physical and mental illness, incarceration, domestic violence, and military deployment. Kinship care families tend to be poor with most caregivers outside of the formal service system. Consequently, they face many challenges as they struggle with policies and services that frequently are not responsive to their concerns. Social workers can play major roles in assuring that programs, which build upon the strengths of these families, are both available and accessible for them.
Richard P. Barth
Adoption of children from foster care and international adoptions have accelerated since 1987. Federal policy changes have markedly increased the termination of parental rights and adoption of children in foster care. Adoption by relatives and single parents has also grown markedly. Open adoption is increasingly normative. Adoption outcomes are generally positive although there is substantial call for post-adoption support for children adopted from foster care. These services are emerging but their efficacy is still untested. More work is needed on post-adoption services because there are now more former foster children in post-adoption status than there are children in foster care.
Aakanksha Sinha and Ruth G. McRoy
Every year thousands of children are removed from their families and are placed into out-of-home care. While these children are placed in care settings with a hope of a better future, they are often faced with many challenges that impact their short and long terms growth. As of 2017, 442,995 children have been removed from their families and placed in the U.S. foster care system for an average of 20.1 months. Placement occurs for several reasons, such as neglect, parent incarceration, drug abuse, and caretakers’ inability to cope. Twenty-seven percent (117,110) have been in care over two years, and all of these children face many obstacles in life that can impact their short- and long-term well-being. One of the most significant challenges they face is access to a stable educational environment that supports positive mental, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social growth. Frequent moves, lack of coordination between schools, and underdeveloped infrastructure to support unique needs are some of the significant predictors of disproportionately poor education outcomes for children in foster care and other residential settings. The lack of stable educational environment leads to a number of challenges related to enrollment, stability, access to special services, peer relations, grade retention, and caregiver and teacher familiarity with academic strengths and weaknesses of the child. To improve their educational outcomes, there is a need for advocacy and significant changes at the at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Consistent efforts need to be made by stakeholders, such as state and federal government, schools, child welfare systems, and community partners to address systemic inequities, improve current policies and practices, increase accessibility to quality schools, provide mental health services, and, most importantly, establish a stable environment that will enable the youth to flourish and succeed.