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The Challenges and Importance of Foster Care

Foster care is a system of care designed to provide temporary or permanent homes for children who are unable to live with their birth families. The goal of foster care is to provide children with a safe, stable, and nurturing environment while their parents work to overcome the challenges that led to their removal from the home. Despite its importance in providing care and support for vulnerable children, the foster care system is often criticized for its shortcomings. This post will explore the challenges facing the foster care system and the need for continued improvement.

One of the biggest challenges facing the foster care system is the shortage of foster homes. There are simply not enough families willing or able to open their homes to children in need. This shortage can lead to overcrowding in group homes and institutional care facilities, which can have negative impacts on children's development and well-being (Smithgall et al., 2004).

Another challenge is the lack of continuity and stability in foster care placements. Children in foster care often experience multiple placements, which can lead to disruptions in their education, social connections, and sense of identity (Testa et al., 2012). This lack of stability can also have negative impacts on mental health outcomes and the likelihood of reunification with birth families (Dorsey et al., 2012).

Additionally, the foster care system has been criticized for its overreliance on psychotropic medications to manage the behavioral and emotional problems of children in care. Research has shown that children in foster care are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications than their peers who are not in foster care (Zito et al., 2008). This overreliance on medications can have negative impacts on children's health and development.

Despite these challenges, the foster care system remains an essential component of child welfare. Foster care provides a lifeline to children who may have nowhere else to turn. It offers children the opportunity to grow and thrive in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment.

To address the challenges facing the foster care system, there is a need for continued improvement and innovation. This includes recruiting more foster families, improving the quality and stability of placements, and reducing the overreliance on psychotropic medications. By working together to improve the foster care system, we can ensure that every child in need receives the care and support they deserve.


Dorsey, S., Farmer, E. M., Barth, R. P., Greene, K. M., Reid, J., & Landsverk, J. (2012). Current status and evidence base of training for foster and treatment foster parents. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(3), 533-540.

Smithgall, C., Jarpe-Ratner, E., Akos, P., & Denmark, F. (2004). Outcomes for children and youth in foster care and kinship care: A review of the literature. Children and Youth Services Review, 26(2), 159-177.

Testa, M. F., Vargas, D., Falconnier, L., & Kramer, J. J. (2012). Stability, aging out, and exiting foster care: Findings from the California foster youth mental health survey. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(2), 338-344.

Zito, J. M., Safer, D. J., Sai, D., Gardner, J. F., Thomas, D., & Coombes, P. (2008). Psychotropic medication patterns among youth in foster care. Pediatrics, 121(1), e157-e163.

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