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How Long Will You Foster a Child Depends on Each Child’s Individual Case

How long you can keep a foster child is complicated because each foster child has different needs. Those children who potentially will enter your home each come with a case file that varies significantly. The goal of the foster care system is to care for a child until they are safely placed in a permanent family situation. This means they are either reunited with their birth parents, adopted into a family, or placed with close relatives. In this way, a foster care situation is temporary by definition. However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and Children’s Bureau, the length of time a child stays varies from anywhere from one month to nine years.

Children Enter the Foster Care System for Various Reasons so the Length of Time of their Stay Also Varies

Foster child sitting on couch with her foster parents

In the United States, there are on average 400,000 children in the foster care system. In the state of Texas, there are approximately 30,000 foster children. On average, 3,500 of those children are waiting to be adopted by families. The foster care system is an extended network of families who take children into their homes for a multitude of situations. Sometimes it is because of neglect, a deceased parent, or a child needs a family to live with while waiting to be legally emancipated.

Since foster children are as young as toddler-age and as old as a college-age student, the length of time a foster child stays in the system depends on various factors. However, on average, a child typically stays with their foster family for about thirteen months. Furthermore, 22% of these children only remain in the system for one to five months.

A Child’s Case Plan Goal Often Predicts How Long They Remain in the Foster Care System

When a child enters the foster care system, their case plan goal can predict how extended their stay will be. According to national statistics, only 3% of children intend to stay with a foster family for an extended period. Additionally, older foster children often remain with a family until they are legally able to be emancipated. In Texas this is 16 years old for children living apart from their parents.

The length of time changes, though, for children who are waiting for adoptive families. The average stay for children waiting to be adopted is about two years.

55% of foster children are waiting to be reunited with their parents. Meaning, the length of time these children stay with a family depends on the status of the parents. All of this depends on the steps that have been taken to ensure that the child’s home life will be secure if they are returned to Mom and Dad.  Otherwise, they can be placed with a close relative.

Making the Commitment to Foster a Child Takes Dedication

How long one keeps a foster child depends on what is going on in that child’s life. This can depend on the child’s age or case plan goal. While having a foster child for five years or more is not as common as fostering for one to two years, the commitment to a child’s care is foremost. If you are interested in fostering a child please contact us for more information and we can help you sort out the questions you have about fostering a child in Texas.