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Types of Foster Care

Types of Foster Care

There are many different types of foster care arrangements available to children in need of temporary housing. The type of foster care arrangements a child will enter depends on the particular needs of the child and the resources available in the child’s immediate area.

Foster family   

In this foster care arrangement, a foster family or an individual foster parent cares for one or more foster children in their home. Foster families must undergo a rigorous screening process, undergo training and submit to a home inspection to certify that the potential foster home environment is suitable for children.

Group homes

This type of foster care involves an organization operating a home whereby six or more children live in a congregate setting. The group home is staffed by individuals who are responsible for the children’s care and ensuring the environment operates as a large family home. Originally, congregate living served as the primary mode of delivering foster care with religious communities or charitable organizations providing a place for foster children to live. With the growing use of foster families, group homes are often used to fill in a gap in the need for placements or for children whose needs are better served in a congregate living arrangement.  

Related: Foster Parent Requirements

Kinship care

Kinship care, as the name implies a full-time foster care arrangement in which relatives, godparents, stepparents, or any other adult relative or unrelated individual (with a close relationship with the child) provides foster care.

Kinship care is divided into two categories: informal and formal.

Under an informal kinship care arrangement, a child welfare agency may be involved in the case but does not have legal custody of the child. Since the birth family still maintains legal custody, the foster parents do not need to be approved or licensed as is the case under traditional foster care arrangement.

Formal kinship care, on the other hand, differs from informal kinship care in that a child welfare agency takes legal custody of the child due to abuse or neglect by the child’s biological family. However, a relative or someone with a close relationship with the child serves as the foster parent undergoing licensing and approval.

Related: Background and History of Foster Care

Short-term and long-term foster care

In addition to the care settings outlined above, foster care can also be organized along the length of care provided. For example, some foster care is provided on a short-term basis. Short-term foster care is commonly referred to as emergency or respite care and is used when the child will be able to safely return to his or her home after a short amount of time. The second and more common arrangement involves long-term foster care in which the expectation is that the child will either be unified with his or her family or adopted after an extended stay in foster care.  


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