There are hundreds of thousands of foster children in America, three-fourths of which are in need of homes while being temporarily removed from the care of their parent or guardian. Often, this is for neglect, abuse or substance abuse issues and the state works with the parent to get them to a place where they're able to raise their child or children. In the meantime, the child is sent to live with foster parents, who act as temporary caregivers. The average time a child spends in the foster care system is two years. This is due in part to the time needed for an attempt to reunite the birth parents and child but also to processing the involuntary termination of parental rights if reunification isn't possible.
Foster parents must pass a home study similar to adoption and may eligible for federal or state aid to help pay for the foster child's clothes and health care.
If a couple knows they want to adopt a foster child, their state may have a fost-adopt or legal risk program that can arrange the placement of a foster child who is expected to be available for adoption soon. Fostering a child can be a great way for the family to stabilize and become comfortable to the point that an adoption would just be a formality. However, fostering a child can also be tough because of the sense of impermanence in the foster family's relationship with the child. On the flip-side, becoming too attached to a foster child can make his or her reunification tough.