April 14, 2024
How Long Does Foster Care Usually Last?

If there’s one thing all foster parents know it’s that foster care can last for days, months, or even years. While some foster care can be very short-term and the goal is almost always to reunite children with families as soon as possible,  sometimes it’s just not possible at all.

In this article, we’ll be going through the basics of how long foster care lasts, what foster parents can expect, and how/when children are able to leave the foster system to return to their original families.

Short-Term Foster Care

First, let’s start by talking about short-term foster care. This can happen for a number of reasons but generally speaking, it’s a cautionary move to protect a child’s safety. This can happen because there is serious concern about parental abuse, or else because the child has ended up in a dangerous environment where they might be exposed to things like drug addiction or domestic violence.

As a rule, these situations can be the hardest to predict and so for the first few months, it’s best to play it by ear. Naturally, this can be difficult for foster parents who might not know what to expect, but the best advice is to think in terms of months until given further notice.

That being said, it can sometimes be because the parent is temporarily unable to look after their child. A common example would be illness. While the child would usually go to a family member for that period of time, there are some cases where the only available space for them is with foster parents. Generally speaking, foster parents are fully aware that this is only a short-term stay and won’t have to start planning for the future.

Long-Term Foster Care

In situations where the family unit breaks down entirely, a child may end up being placed in long-term foster care. The really difficult part of this is that, for quite a while, foster parents just won’t know how long they can expect to be looking after a child. As we said before, the best – and in some respects, the only – thing foster parents can do is go day by day and month by month. Continue to meet the child’s needs as and when they arise and, most importantly, keep the child informed about what is happening.

Being a child in long-term foster care is hard. There’s just no sugar-coating that fact. These children have lost their families, often under stressful situations, and have no clear idea about if or when they’ll get them back. The best thing you can do under the circumstances is to keep them informed. Be there for them but also tell them what’s happening. That way, while they might not be in control, they can at least feel like they have the clearest possible picture.

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