Foster care is a term used to describe when a child is living and looked after by a family which is not their own. The child may be put into foster care because their own parents are not able to look after them. There may be several reasons why this may happen. The parents may be very ill or unable to control their own lives, perhaps because of alcoholism or drug addiction. They may be in prison or the children may be threatened with violence in their own home. Children are put into foster care so that they are safe and can live a more normal life in someone else's home.
When a child is fostered there has to be a legal agreement. The person who looks after them instead of their own parents is called a “foster parent”. The child is made a “ward” of court, which means that power is given through the court of law to the foster parent to look after them. The foster parent(s) is “in loco parentis”, meaning: “in the place of the parent”. They can make decisions about the child because the real parent(s) are not able to do this.
The laws about fostering children are, of course, not the same in different countries around the world.
In most Western countries fostering can sometimes be a long-term arrangement, perhaps until the child has become an adult. However, in many cases the child may be able to return to their own family later if their family life has changed.
Foster parents are paid by the state to look after the children.
Fosterage is not the same as foster care. Some societies have arrangements whereby children are brought up in other families. This is a social matter, not a legal matter. This can be described as "fosterage".
Notes and references
- Macmillan Dictionary for Students Macmillan, Pan Ltd. (1981), page 14. Retrieved 2010-7-21.