What is foster care?

Foster care is a state initiated temporary placement for children who cannot live with their family. Children generally enter foster care when their parent or guardian is unable or has failed to keep a child safe or meet their basic needs.  Common factors that contribute to foster care placement  include, but are not limited to:  substance abuse by a parent or guardian; unaddressed or out of control mental health problems of a parent or guardian; homelessness; extreme poverty; physical abuse; domestic violence; sexual abuse; or the death of parents or guardians.  These issues – commonly referred to as “child neglect or abuse” – are found in all communities including the Muslim community.

In the cases of refugee foster children, the State Department identifies children overseas who are eligible for resettlement in the United States. These children are resettled in the United States through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) Program. The birth parents of these children are determined to either be deceased or “missing”, and they do not have a parent or relative available to provide care. Once they are matched with a licensed foster care home, they are brought to the United States and they receive refugee foster care services and benefits.

The most common form of foster care is placement in a licensed unrelated foster home. However, foster care placements can also include placement with relatives, group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living situations.  Foster care placements aim to place a child in “the most family like setting” similar to their original home.  If a child cannot be placed with relatives due to their unavailability or unsuitability, the next best option is a foster home of similar cultural and religious background to their biological family.

Children can enter foster care any time from birth to 18 years of age.  Once in foster care, children can stay until age 21 unless returned home, adopted, or placed in a guardianship before then.  Although foster placements are temporary, it is possible that the child’s parents will lose parental rights and hence the child would become eligible for adoption or permanent placement.  Note however, a foster parent is under no obligation to adopt.

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