How does the foster system work in the USA?

How does the foster system work in the USA? 

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    This is a great question! The foster system in the United States has a two-fold mission: to provide safe, temporary care for children who are unable to live with their parents as guardians, with an eye to ultimately reuniting them as a family, and to find permanent homes for children who have no permanent guardians, either because their parents relinquished custody or the state terminated guardianship. At the heart of foster care the state works to get kids back with their parents, and foster care providers work to give their charges every chance to reunite with mom and dad again.

    Kids enter the foster system in a few different ways. When a parent is arrested and there is no immediate custody arrangement available for a child (like a grandparent or close family friend that can watch the kids for a few days) they can enter into emergency care. Ideally the child will stay in a temporary foster home for a few days while Mom or Dad work through the court system. If the parent is incarcerated for a longer period of time the child will be placed in a more permanent home, and the foster parents will work with the courts to make sure the child has visitation with her parents. In some cases children may be placed in a group home, if there are no available foster homes.

    Another way that a child enters the foster system is if the child’s home life is deemed unlivable, either because of neglect or abuse. A parent can have the state welfare agencies alerted to unsafe living conditions, and a social worker will come and evaluate the home. If the situation is deemed truly unsafe then the child can be placed in temporary or longer-term care while the adults work to make the home a safe place for a child again.

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