Approximately 350,000 children live with 150,000 foster families in the United States during any given year. These children are in foster homes because the degree of social disorganization in their natural families has led to a societal decision to separate them from their natural families. Significant basic causes include unemployment, poor education, poor housing, and bias. There are also more subtle factors which may, in part, lie beyond our present understanding.
Foster children comprise a population at high risk. At the time of placement, most of them have not had access to sufficient physical and emotional nourishment and necessary medical care. One recent study revealed handicaps in some 40% of the children studied; of these, 15% had multiple handicaps, 33% had emotional and behavioral problems, 19% were mentally retarded, and 13% had various physical ills. Twenty percent had not been evaluated at all. Indeed, there are many kinds of handicaps. Thirty percent of foster children have not seen their natural parents within six months. The average placement has been longer than five years; 68% of placements range from four to eight years, with frequent movement of a child from one family setting to another.
The community, with the process of foster care, assumes or accepts the responsibility for a child's care through the mechanism of count order and/ or voluntary agreement with natural parents. The implied promise of such a move is the satisfaction of apparently unfulfilled needs. The implication is that a period of planned substitute family care can serve as a positive rehabilitative force.
- Copyright © 1975 by the American Academy of Pediatrics