Types of Foster Care Placements
Foster care is a crucial safety net for children unable to live with their birth families. It provides a temporary home and supportive environment for children in need, allowing them to heal, grow, and thrive. However, not all foster care placements are created equal. There are various types of foster care placements, each with its unique challenges, benefits, and requirements. Children can be in foster care from birth to age 21, potentially living in many different types of homes throughout their time in the foster care system.
Where does a child go when they enter foster care?
When a child’s well-being and safety are at risk, the Department of Human Services (DHS) can step in and remove the child from their home. When removed, the child(ren) is assigned a case worker. It is the case worker’s responsibility to find an immediate placement. The first place they look for placement is with a relative. If no relative is available, they look for open foster homes or other placement options. The main priority on the first night is to find a bed for the child(ren) to sleep in for the night.
On average, in our local area, a child spends 15 months in the foster care system but sometimes spends many years in the system. Here in Northwest Arkansas, we have a child who has been in care for over seven years.
Over a child’s time in foster care, they may be placed in various placements based on their needs and the current goal of the case. Throughout the case, the goal can change based on the work put into the parents’ case plan and what is in the best interest of the child. As the child is evaluated by DCFS, CASA, and other parties, recommendations for placement are put forward to the judge. These placements range from less to more restrictive based on various factors. Many of the children in our foster care system have been through traumatic experiences, which dictates various needs for the children. Below is a chart detailing the different types of placements a child can receive.
How does a CASA advocate for where a child should be placed?
CASA volunteers assess cases to understand the child’s individual needs. During the process of understanding the family history and getting to know the child, the CASA volunteer makes recommendations on placement for the child. They consider the best options for the child(ren) and look for opportunities for them to thrive while receiving the necessary level of care.
One issue our CASA volunteers encounter around placements is foster homes not having adequate space for large sibling groups. This causes siblings to be split up and placed in different foster homes. The CASA volunteer is always persistent in advocating for siblings to be placed together or live nearby and help ensure sibling visits occur regularly to maintain their bond.
Throughout the life of the case, CASA volunteers advocate for children to be placed with family members and constantly look for unidentified relatives as potential placement and permanency options. Unfortunately, in many cases, family members are not always an option for the child(ren) to stay with. Some family members do not meet the standards of the department for placement. This can be due to criminal background checks, child maltreatment checks, financial situations, and or inadequate space in the home for the child(ren). When these situations arise, the CASA volunteer looks further into the barrier and assesses whether resources and support could be offered to the family member to help get the placement of the child.
Placement types fall into the following categories and are overseen by the Child Welfare Agency Review Board and Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA). Look through the multiple pages to see each type.