The purpose of foster care in any state is to safeguard children who are in unsafe living situations. Many children are removed from their birth families through no fault of their own. Children are removed from dangerous situations for various reasons ranging from truancy and neglect to trauma and drug abuse by the parent. Neglect can refer to parents who do not have stable housing, are homeless, are purposely not caring for their children medically, not providing food, have hoarding situations, various pest infestations, etc. When drugs or other illegal activities are present, the state will get involved; these cases also usually involve some type of abuse, neglect, or both. Abuse is usually physical and/or sexual on the part of the caretaker or a caretaker knowingly allows the child to be abused by a family member or close friend.
What is the Foster Care System like In Florida?
The state will work with parents to bring the living situations for the children up to acceptable standards. Parents who are willing to cooperate with the Department of Children’s Services will typically be reunited with their children. Parents who are unwilling or unable to cooperate may have parental rights terminated.
When a child is removed from the birth parent and placed into state custody, the state will first attempt to place the child with a family member. That family member must pass a background check, be willing and able to care for the child, be willing to cooperate with the Department of Children’s Services, and have a safe home. If a family member cannot be immediately identified and found to be safe for the child, then the child will be placed with a foster parent.
Foster parents must go through rigorous training courses (20-30 hours), pass a background check, and complete a home study, as well as have interviews and references. Foster parents are trained in how to care for children who have endured trauma, how to care for children medically, and how to nurture and discipline. The state pays for all training, background checks, and home studies. Foster parents are paid a daily rate per child.
The purpose of foster care is always to reunite children with their birth parents. Birth parents are given a list of goals that must be completed within a certain time frame. For example, parents who are homeless must secure a job and an apartment or a home. Parents who were charged with drug use may have to agree to complete a rehab program and/or test negative for drugs for a certain amount of time. Parents whose children were taken away for abuse may never get their children back and have no contact orders with their children. This is to protect the children from further abuse.
If birth parents have a repeated history of neglect and/or drug abuse, the state may decide that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights (TPR) and pursue adoption. Usually, the foster family who has the child has priority for adoption. Family members may also have priority for adoption, depending on how long the child has been in foster care and in the current foster home. If the current foster family does not intend to pursue adoption for a child whose parental rights have been terminated and no family members have come forward to adopt, then other approved foster families will have the ability to adopt that child/children.
Due to the growing number of children coming into state custody, laws are being enacted to try to make it easier for foster children to become available for adoption. The current law now allows judges more freedom in making decisions that are in the best interest of the child, given the specific circumstances in each case.
To become a foster parent in Florida, visit the Department of Children’s Services for more information.
To find a list of benefits that foster parents have in adopting children from foster care click here.