A traditional foster care situation involves a child taken from biological parents due to abuse or neglect. There is usually hope that the behavior of the parents can be changed substantially to allow the family to be reunited. Birth parents participate in therapy or are re-educated while the child is being fostered. Both foster parents and social services monitor their progress and behavior.
As the biological parents learn and implement new parenting skills, they usually have regular contact with the child in either the social services office or the foster home. These adults are considered to be on probation and if their progress is not as expected, the child may be placed for adoption. This situation often results in conflict between the biological and foster parents.
Those providing traditional care can sometimes find the situation stressful. Children may be returned to what the adults consider an unsatisfactory home environment. Some children later reenter the foster system following additional abuse or neglect. Foster parents have no legal standing on the matter, though some agencies rely on their judgment regarding the preparedness of the biological parents.
Birth parents sometimes reach the conclusion that their child is better off finding a new permanent home. Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, states must join or initiate proceedings for parental rights termination if birth parents do not meet rehabilitation goals within 18 months and children are
younger than ten. This provides an opportunity for a permanent family to be secured more quickly.
This law minimizes the time that young children spend being fostered. It allows them to enter a stable home environment sooner than otherwise possible. The hope is that any emotional damage inflicted by the uncertain home situation will be minimized and temporary. Adoption enables them to begin creating their future in a secure home under adequate care.