Children enter foster care because of suspected abuse or neglect at home. Foster parents have an important role in supporting children during their time in care, providing safety, security and comfort. Not only do foster parents help children, they are also asked to be supportive of the child’s family of origin as the parents work to address the situation that led to a child being placed in care.

More than half of children placed into foster care are reunited with their families successfully, and foster parents are a critical part of that success rate. When reunification is not possible, some foster parents go on to adopt children from foster care or become their legal guardians.

Understanding the critical role of a great foster parent

Foster care brought into focus what being a parent is about. It’s about nurturing children so that they can be happy and healthy, and loved.

John, foster parent from California

What’s it like for a child when they enter foster care?

In a word, confusing. It can also be sad. Traumatic. A relief. And, often, a combination of all these feelings. Even when foster care is necessary, it is a deeply disorienting experience for children and youth. They are removed by strangers from everything they know and love, including their parents, siblings, relatives and even their clothes, belongings or pets. Foster parents can help soften the landing by understanding the trauma that removal from this familiar environment can cause.

Foster care: rooting for the birth family

Not everyone realizes that foster care is supposed to be a temporary place for children to stay while their families work to address the situation that caused them to land in care. So, while being a foster parent is a great way to help children in tough situations, it can also be an opportunity to support a family in healing and growing stronger. Foster parents are a critical part of the healing process. It’s a little known fact that approximately half of children in foster care return to their families of origin.

Picture of parent from Oregon

I’d never seen anything like that before. To have a foster parent approach me or I had never seen any foster parents approach my mom. I remember very clearly the foster parent telling me that she was rooting for me and that he’s well loved. It was really helpful. I felt like for the first time in my life that these people were not here to try and take my kid from me, that they were in it for the love and heart. And in wrapping their arms around, not just him, but me as well.

Jennifer, parent from Oregon

Adopting from foster care

When it isn’t possible to return home, a child may become available for adoption. Each year, more than 122,000 children wait to be adopted from foster care. Last year, over 60,000 children were adopted from foster care. When you adopt from foster care, we urge you to become familiar with post-adoption supports available to help families adjust to life after adoption. Learn more about adopting from foster care at Adopt US Kids.

The biggest thing that sticks out to me about my adoptive parents, is their never ending love. Didn’t matter what we did, it didn’t matter how hard we pushed, the lines we pushed, the boundaries we pushed. They were always there, and they’d say we’re disappointed but we still love you.

Marcus, advocate and foster parent with lived foster care experience from Michigan