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One of the primary questions many people have when they’re ready to become a foster parent is, “How long can you keep a foster child?”. You like the idea of a long-term, loving relationship with a foster child who will become a member of your family, and the idea of having them torn away is potentially devastating. Understanding the types of foster care placements can help you develop a better understanding of how foster care works and how long a child will be in your care.

Foster parents telling their foster child a story on the couch.

Short-Term Placements

There is a great need for short-term placements for many foster children. Children may need a temporary placement while waiting for relatives to come to get them. They could also need emergency care immediately before long-term foster parents can be found. In these cases, children may stay in your home for only a few days–often not even as long as a week–before they move on to another placement. In other cases, children may be removed from the home temporarily, but a judge may reinstate custody as soon as the parents get a hearing.

Waiting on the Parents

The first goal of foster care is reuniting the child with their parents. In many cases, this means waiting for the parents to fix a problem: getting clean, removing unsafe items from the home, or creating a better standard of living at home. Parents may need to deal with the problems that led to the children being removed from their custody in the first place. Once these steps have been completed, many foster children are able to return to their parents’ care. In this case, they may be with you for weeks or months before returning home.

Long-Term Placement

Long-term placement is designed for children who are unable to be reunified with their parents for whatever reason. When parental custody is terminated, these children will become available for adoption. However, in the case of older children, they have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be adopted. In many cases, it can take years to fully move through the adoption process. Either the caregiver or the child may also decide that they don’t want to pursue adoption. This leaves the child in the care of the foster parent until they age out of the system between the ages of 18 and 21. In this case, a long-term parent/child relationship is often still possible.

Learn More about How Long You Can Keep a Foster Child

It’s often impossible to predict how long you will be able to keep a foster child. You don’t know what type of situation they’re coming from, or how long it will take for things to change in their lives. However, you can select the type of placement you prefer, and most foster services will do their best to stay within those guidelines. Have more questions about becoming a foster parent? Contact us today to learn more.