For those not deeply familiar with the Child Welfare System there is a common confusion that Foster Care is somehow similar to Adoption. Multiple website’s content from different folks often use the terms interchangeably. Since this adversely affects the recruitment and work of foster parents we wish to clarify for all prospective foster parents out there:
About 50% of foster kids in the US Foster Care system are not able to be reunited with their biological families. And yes, 26% of Foster Kids were adopted by foster parents according to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System- AFCARS:2020 (page 3) by the foster family. The average time in foster care is about 2 years and more details are available in the AFCARS report.
Here are some thoughts on the changing concept of family and how the the child enters foster care:
- Family- the Marxian Perspective: There was a time till the 1980’s when Marxian sociologists argued that “family” was a capitalist invention. The husband was exploited by the factory owner and the wife was the unpaid worker at home who had to calm down the annoyed husband who returned after feeling mistreated and exploited at work. Kids were socialized to follow orders so that they became obedient cogs in the capitalist machine. See the brilliant explanation in the Family Chapter of Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Michael Haralambos. The older thinking was that family is formed when a man and woman is married and have children.
- Natural Family in the 2020’s: The meaning of the “natural” family has radically changed in the 2020’s. Parents can be married or not, hetrosexual or not and single parents are common in the US. So long as the child is loved and cared for- everyone seems to agree that the best option for any newborn child is growing up in their biological family. Today foster parents can be diverse by gender, gender identity, sexual orientation etc. in and are actively sought in many US states.
- How does the foster child originate? If the biological family is unable to take care of the child the public through the State Government takes charge. The reasons listed in the 2020 AFCARS ( table below from page 2 , 2019 data)
- Why Foster parent orientation and training is so important : Given the challenging history of the kids who come into foster (see table above) the prospective foster parent needs to be highly motivated and trained. To be a successful foster parent it’s important to recognize that the primary goal is to try and reunite the child with the biological family- see our post on kinship care. Since 26% foster parents do eventually adopt – it indicates the kindness and nobility of the foster parent community.
As a prospective foster parent when you attend a session with a local foster care recruiter on the StartFosterCare.org platform be sure to ask questions you have. That interaction is made easy in our system and should help clarify your own feelings and needs so that you make a great foster parent!