As of September 30, 2010, there were 408,425 children in U.S. foster care, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. Staggering numbers. The median age of these children was 9.2 years and the median number of months children had been in the system was 14. For 51 percent, reunification with biological parents or principal caregivers was the goal, while 25 percent of cases had a goal of adoption.
Children are taken from their biological families and placed into the foster system due to neglect or emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. In nearly every case, birth parents must receive help before they can safely parent children. If a parent is still unable to safely raise children after being provided help, the child is placed in the foster system.
Once a child has been in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months, parental rights are terminated by the state. The child is then available to be adopted. Children looking for adoptive parents range from less than one year old to 21 years of age. The effect that previous neglect or abuse has on them varies by child and situation. In general, these children need parents who they can trust and who will foster their talents.
A caseworker informs prospective foster caregivers of learning, emotional, or physical issues a child experiences. In addition to discussing these with the caseworker, the adults should also speak with teachers, doctors, and other adoptive parents. These individuals can provide a realistic picture of parenting the child.
Special needs children qualify for financial adoption assistance based on certain conditions or factors. States determine these, based on federal guidelines. Factors often include ethnic background, age, medical conditions, membership in a certain sibling or minority group, or handicaps of an emotional, mental, or physical nature.