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Reasons Children Come to Foster Care

Foster mom hugging her foster daughter at graduation

Up to half a million children are in the child welfare system in America at any given time. In Ohio, more than 16,000 children are in the care of an agency away from their parents. Every situation is different, but there are many reasons children come into care. Child safety and welfare due to a family crisis are always at the root.

1. Neglect

Neglect is when a child goes without basic needs. Neglect includes leaving a child alone for extended periods of time, having inadequate food or nutrition, unsafe living environments, lack of medical care, or absence of responsibility for education.

2. Abuse

Living in an abusive home puts a child at risk not only physically, but mentally. Abuse comes in many forms: physical, sexual and emotional. Witnessing abuse of other family members is also considered abusive to a child.

3. Drug Addiction

When a family member, especially a parent, struggles with addiction, it causes chaos in a home. In recent years, the United States has experienced an opioid epidemic that has affected every aspect of the child welfare system. Even when children come into the care of a child welfare agency because of abuse or neglect, a parent’s drug addiction is often one of the underlying factors in the family’s situation.

4. Incarceration

If a parent faces incarceration, every attempt will be made to place the child with an appropriate family member or family friend. Until this can be arranged—or if it can’t be—the child may be placed in foster care.

5. Illness

Illnesses can be incapacitating. Depending on the situation, parents can become physically, and also financially, unable to care for their children. If a family member can’t take over the parenting responsibilities, the county agency and court may need to step in so the child may be placed in foster care until the parent or another family member can care for the child.

6. Death

When a parent dies, a family member or friend usually steps in to care for the child. When that cannot happen, sometimes the county agency and courts must get involved to find a safe and stable home for the child. In those cases, the child may be placed in foster care until a permanent placement can be found.

7. Voluntary Placement

Sometimes a parent voluntarily agrees to work with a county agency to place their child in a foster home while they work to improve the family’s situation. In these cases, the parent is usually given a short amount of time, typically 30 to 60 days, to alleviate the risk factors. When successful, the child can return home quickly. If the parent can’t reduce the risks, sometimes the agency has to get the court involved to take custody of the child.