A foster child is a minor child who has been taken into state custody and placed with a state-licensed adult, who cares for the child in place of their parent or guardian. Children often enter the foster care system as a result of an unsafe or unstable home environment, usually due to abuse or neglect. Other times, parents become unable to care for their children for reasons such as illness, death, or incarceration. More rarely, parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights and place their child into foster care.
Foster children might live in a group home, ward, or in a private home with a foster family. Other times, child welfare agents find relatives or adults who know the child to care for them. Most foster children ultimately reunite with their parent or guardian after the issues necessitating the child’s removal are resolved. Other foster children find permanent placements through adoption or permanent guardianship. However, some foster children reach the age of majority and “age out” of the foster care system before a permanent family placement is established.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]