Different Types of Foster Care Placements
Understanding the different types of foster care placements is important. Foster care isn’t as simple as children just going to foster parents.
While in foster care I lived in 5 different types of placements. Since there are more foster children than there are foster parents, the system must use multiple placement types.
The proper term for each of these varies by location, but they are pretty similar no matter where in the USA you are. So what are the different types of foster care placements?
1. Emergency Shelter
An emergency children’s shelter is where a foster child goes when first entering foster care if the case worker is unable to find a family for the child. This was the worst of the different types of foster care placements to me. Perhaps because of the shock.
An emergency shelter is similar to a group home. The only real difference is these emergency shelters are short term placements until the case worker is either able to find a foster home or group home for the child.
With this being a first stop, many of the children enter with nothing. Usually when a child is taken from their parents they do not get to gather their belongings. So the child enters the system with the clothes on their back.
It is the emergency shelter’s responsibility to clean the child up, possibly remove lice if an issue, and clothe the child until another placement comes available.
2. Temporary Foster Homes
There are different types of foster carers. Some foster carers sign up for long term placements. Others prefer short term ‘temporary’ commitments.
The temporary foster home is usually a foster parent who takes in a child for up to a certain number of weeks, depending on the State. Care in a temporary foster home is often no more than 4-6 weeks.
These are the placements where foster carers wake in the middle of the night to take in a scared child. They help the child until a worker can find a more permanent solution. Or until a resolution is made with the child’s parent.
3. Permanent Foster Home
A permanent foster home is ideally a foster parent or carer who will keep the child long term. Often this means keeping the foster child until the courts have decided if the child can return to their parents, or will be up for adoption.
A permanent placement with a long-term carer is the healthiest option for the child. Consider the average link of stay in foster care is 33 months. Some children stay even longer. Having more permanent foster homes is key to the children’s well being.
Moving repeatedly through short term placements creates more problems for children who already struggle with serious issues.
4. Group Homes
A ‘group home’ is just as it sounds. It is usually a large building with multiple bedrooms. Children share bedrooms (2-4 per room) and live as a group.
The children eat at the same time, go to sleep at the same time, and are set into schedules and routines. (This is both a good and bad thing.) Some group homes provide home-schooling to their children.
Group homes usually house foster children considered ‘hard to place’. For example:
- Older foster children
- Children with violent tendencies
- Children who have been sexually abused.
Finding a foster parent for them is difficult.
If you would like to read more about what you can do to help foster children in group homes, check out this page.
5. Independent Living Homes
‘Independent living’ placements are usually for foster children aged 16-21. (In certain situations, foster children are allowed to stay in the system past their 18th birthday for the sake of helping them navigate into adulthood.)
Homes designed for independent living are often like apartments. They allow foster children to get a glimpse of personal responsibility, without the need to mow the yard.
Budgets and shopping responsibilities are part of independent living. Foster children (including some who have been in other types of foster care placements for their entire childhood) get used to buying food within a set budget. Kids transitioned into independent living are encouraged to finish high school, get a GED, start college, or get a job.
Why are the Different Types of Foster Care Placements Important?
As you’ll see from the following statistic, there is a great need for each of the different types of foster care placements. Sadly, there’s a huge demand for emergency care, for instance. And look how many foster children need help developing independent living skills!
- In an average year up to 800,000 children in the US enter foster care. (With up to 500,000 being in care at one time.)
- Over 100,000 children will be waiting for adoption in foster care each year.
- Nearly 50% of children entering care will never go back to their biological parents.
- Approximately 25,000 children will age out of the system each year without being adopted.
- 1 in 5 foster children will be homeless after turning 18.
- Less than 3% of all foster children end up getting a college degree.
- Nearly 50% of foster children suffer from mental health issues.
The level of care children receive in each of the different types of foster care placements will directly impact their future. And their ability to ultimately play a positive and constructive role within their community.
All the Different Types of Foster Care Placements Need Community Support
Successful and supportive foster care can greatly change the outcome for children. And with so many different types of foster care placements, it gives more options for people to help.
It is important to remember you don’t have to become an active foster parent to help foster children. There are 5 different types of foster care placements, and they all need community support.
What will you do to help change these statistics? Please read other articles in our foster care section to learn more about foster care and what you can do to assist.
Now that you know what the different types of foster care placements are, you can look for a convenient way to help foster children near your home. A small effort by members of the community can make a big difference in their lives!