Traditional vs. Legal-Risk Foster Care Placements

Over the course of our journey we have learned there are some misconceptions about foster care and exactly the role my husband and I are playing.

So in an effort to clarify, my husband suggested writing a post on the topic of traditional foster care placements and legal-risk foster care placements.

What is foster care?

According to Google, “Foster care is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected, and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them. Often their families face issues such as illness, alcohol or drug addiction, or homelessness.”

What is the goal of foster care?

Reunification.

Wait, what?!

Yes, the goal of traditional foster care is to reunify the kid(dos) with their biological family.  Nearly 49% (almost half) of all children in foster care move back in with their biological family.  Children are cared for by a foster family while their parents/caregivers work to overcome the issues that resulted in the child(ren) going into care.  Foster families serve as a member of a support team that helps the parents get back on their feet.

So… you are supposed to be fighting for children to go back with their biological family and yet you are asking us to pray for you to adopt the children.  What’s wrong with you?

Here’s where the big difference comes into play.  Big brother and little sister are considered a legal-risk placement.  A legal-risk placement means that the parents/caregivers either have imposed severe or repeat abuse/neglect on the child(ren) and the primary case goal is to terminate parental rights.  The term “legal-risk” is used because termination of parental rights has not yet occurred but is the intended and likely outcome.  When a social worker is recruiting a legal-risk placement for a child or group of children they circulate the child(ren)’s profile to other social workers throughout the state.

Marcy… are all legal-risk foster care placements roller coaster rides like yours?

No.  Our situation is unique for a few reasons.

  1. The children in our care are from a rural town that has limited resources when compared to a highly populated metropolitan city like the one we live in.
  2. If the children were from a town closer to ours we would be able to visit with members of the team in person more often and likely would have better insights on exactly was going on with the case.
  3. For whatever reason, the team that placed the children in our care felt it was necessary to place the children in a pre-adoptive home (that’s our official label) ASAP due to the children’s young ages and to help them bond and attach more quickly.  My husband and I are grateful to have the opportunity to spend so much time with big brother and little sister before legalizing the adoption.  We think our relationship feels more organic this way.  Some say our case was pre-maturely labeled legal-risk and should have been labeled a traditional foster placement.  Yes, the day we heard those words it stung.
  4. The county where the children are from interpret some of the foster care process differently than the county we reside in.  For instance, in the county we live in, the court will often terminate parental rights on one parent at a time.  The county we are dealing with only terminates parental rights if they have enough evidence on both parents.

Does that make sense?

published 12/23/2014

Published by MarcyBursac

Marcy Bursac has been a carhop on roller skates, a golf cart driver, a fundraiser for the underserved, and a computer programmer. But her childhood dream has always been to be a magnet maker. She and her husband reside in Missouri with their two brave children.

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