What Is Foster Care? - Definition, History & Facts

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  • 0:00 Foster Care Defined
  • 0:29 Example of Foster Care
  • 1:32 Foster Care History
  • 3:50 Facts About Foster Care
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco
In this lesson, foster care will be defined, explained and discussed. The history of foster care and some facts about the foster care system will also be explored and identified.

Foster Care Defined

According to the Federal Code of Regulations, foster care is defined as 24-hour substitute care and responsibility for a child that a state agency has placed away from their legal guardians or parents. Foster care includes placements in homes of relatives, foster family homes, emergency shelters, group homes, residential or child care facilities, and pre-adoptive homes.

Example of Foster Care

To better grasp the concept of foster care, let's go over an imaginary example scenario. Nancy and Bob were watching their dog out the window when they saw a little girl walk into their yard to pet their dog. They had never seen the child before, and Nancy noticed that she was dirty and very thin. The couple went to the yard and talked to her.

The little girl told them her name was Ally and she was 5 years old. She told them her parents were not home, and they didn't leave any food for her. Ally started crying because she was hungry. Nancy assured Ally that everything would be fine. She put Ally into the bathtub to give her a bubble bath while Bob called the police and made Ally dinner.

The police arrived and called the local social services worker. The police went to search for Ally's parents, and the social worker spoke with Ally, Nancy, and Bob. The social worker decided to place Ally into an emergency foster care family home. Foster care in the United States has been around for many years, and Ally is just one example of a child placed into foster care.

Foster Care History

Throughout the history of the United States, there have been various forms of foster care. The foster care system evolved from the English Poor Law of 1562 where children from impoverished homes became indentured servants with other families. These children worked for an employer for wages until they were old enough to take care of themselves. At times, the homes they were placed in were just as bad as the situation they just left but the difference was that the children were learning a trade. It wasn't until many years later that the first actual foster child was placed into a home as a member of the family and not as an indentured servant.

It wasn't until Charles Loring Brace started the free foster home movement in 1853 that individual state governments and social services became involved in the placement of children into foster care. Brace formed the New York Children's Aid Society after he noticed several immigrant children sleeping on the streets of New York. He found families in the South and the West that were willing to provide homes for these children. Over the next several years, foster care evolved into the current foster care system.

In 1865, Massachusetts began paying families who provided care for children. About 20 years later, the first foster care licensing law passed in Pennsylvania in 1885, and South Dakota began providing subsidies to the Children's Home Society in 1893 for their work with foster children. In the early 1900s, social services agencies started to supervise foster parents.

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