Reasons Why Kids enter the Foster Care System

Reasons Why Kids Come Into Foster Care

As per the most recent federal data, there are approximately 407,000 children in foster care in the United States.

Their futures are uncertain. Some will reunite with their birth parents or guardians. Some will be adopted, and, unfortunately, some will age out of the child welfare system.

There are many reasons why children and youth enter the foster care and adoption system in the first place. For example, child abuse and neglect are among the reasons. Read further to learn why kids are in foster care and what society can do to help them.


Suppose the child's mental health is unstable. In that case, a biological parent or guardian can inflict many types of abuse on their child. Physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse are significant reasons for a child to be removed from their family home, causing long-term mental health concerns, and issues with power and control.

Many acts may be considered physical abuse, such as locking a child in a closet or direct physical harm. Each state may differ on precisely what determines physical abuse.

Psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse or verbal abuse, is the most common form of child abuse. It often entails rejection, hostility, bullying, criticism, and exposure to family violence. There are grounds to place a child in foster care if they are repeatedly made to feel worthless, unloved, alone, or frightened by their caregiver.

Sexual abuse involves the engagement of sexual acts with a child. It also includes exposing children to sexual materials and sexual behavior.


Failing to fulfill a child's basic needs such as food, hygiene, education, and a clean living environment is neglect. Other examples of negligence include leaving a child alone or in an unsafe environment.

Parents who fail to get their children the necessary medical care and attention may be guilty of medical neglect. A child may be removed from their biological family house by social services and enter the foster care system if their caregiver cannot take measures to look after the child's health and well-being.


Family members may come forward to look after a child in the case of a parent's death. Yet, sometimes there is no suitable family member or close family friend to take on parental duties. In that case, a child will enter the foster system.


Occasionally, parents may drop a child off somewhere and never return. Whether for financial, emotional, or other reasons, a young parent may feel incapable of raising their child. A child with a severe medical or terminal illness can be abandoned at a local hospital like the Medical College of Virginia, MCV.

In these cases, Richmond DSS is called. A foster placement is looked for with a very experienced Foster Parent specializing in terminally ill children's care and love. These are the most amazing human beings you will ever meet, and it is our privilege we work with them every day in our Richmond office.

Although it's mournful when this happens, children who are later adopted get the opportunity to live in a loving family environment in their new adoptive families where they are finding permanence maybe for the first time in their young lives. 


A parent struggling with an addiction can significantly impact their ability to take care of their children. It can lead to a greater risk of neglect and abuse. A child may be placed in a foster home, and if no family can be found, a group home may be the only place they can stay while the parent's addiction issues are assessed.

According to a 2019 study, the number of children entering foster care due to parental drug use has doubled since 2000. The proportion of foster children entering the system because of parental drug use rose from 14.5% in 2020 to 36.3% in 2017.


A child may be placed into the foster system if a parent goes to jail and there are no family or friends available to care for them in the parent's absence. In 2003, approximately 6% of the children arriving into foster care entered due to parental incarceration. And these children with parents in jail are four times more likely than other children to "age out" of foster care.

It's often a complicated situation for the child, and their future is usually decided on a case-by-case basis.

Juvenile Offense's

In certain instances, the court system may find a child a juvenile offender, which places them at risk of going into foster care. A child welfare officer will assess whether their home situation contributes to their criminal behavior. 

Truancy is another reason why a child may enter the foster care system. It is the parent's responsibility to ensure their child goes to school, and child welfare agencies may remove a child from their home if the parent cannot manage them.

Voluntary Placement

A parent that is unable or unwilling to care for their child may request that they be placed into the foster care system. It can happen for various reasons. Rather than a judge, the caregiver makes the decision themselves. These parents often make the most challenging choice in their lives and work very hard to get the child back when their life stabilizes.

What Do These Children Need?

These children enter a foster care system designed to help both the parents and the children get their lives back on track. The foster care system is far from perfect, but it responds to all the situations detailed above.

No matter the reason for their arrival, foster kids need a safe and nurturing environment to learn healthy skills and develop into kind and peaceful adults. Positive parent-child relationships are vital. Hopefully, they enter the system and are matched with a loving foster family that suits their personality and needs. Read more about great foster parents and the incredible impact of adopting a child.

The needs are different for each child, but a foster parent who is open-minded, dependable, and the patient is likely to play an integral role in a child's physical, emotional, and educational development. It is important to spend time with your foster child. It may be a rocky road, but foster care and adoption is a rewarding and beautiful journey for both parent and child.

There are Many Tragic Reasons Why Kids are in Foster Care

As we've detailed above, there is a range of reasons children arrive in the foster care system. The sad truth is that many children have experienced a combination of these events over a long period.

Foster care provides them with a safer environment and the opportunity to be matched with a "forever family."

Contact us if you're considering becoming a foster parent or want to know more about how you can help foster kids.

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