A county public children services agency goes to court to obtain temporary custody of a child when it is determined that the birth parents are not able to keep the child safe. The county social workers will work with the birth family toward resolving the issues the family is experiencing and returning the child to his/her parents. There are laws that limit how long the county can work toward reunification. Temporary custody means that the birth family still has some “residual” rights, but that the county has legal responsibility to make decisions for the child. Children in temporary custody may be living in foster care, in residential treatment, or even with their birth families.
When children are in foster care they are in temporary custody of the county children services agency that removed them from their birth home. Children in temporary custody are not available for adoption. Their case plan might be to reunify them with their birth parents or other relatives, or the county may be pursuing permanent custody which would make the child available for adoption.
Foster Care at NOAS
Many of the children served at Northeast Ohio Adoption Services (NOAS) are in foster care. We serve two basic populations. The first is older children who are waiting for a family. Often they have significant behavioral and emotional problems. When the need for a foster home arises, we see great benefit to being able to have them in our foster care program while we are recruiting for an adoptive home for them. These are children with “treatment level” needs who require more skilled “treatment level” foster parents.
The second population served by NOAS is children in foster to adopt placements. These are children for whom we have identified an adoptive placement, but their temporary custody status prevents us from making the initial placement an adoptive placement. Usually the permanent custody has not yet been granted or is under appeal. We might make a foster care placement with a NOAS adoptive family with the intent to change to an adoptive placement once the custody issue is resolved by the courts. These children may have treatment level or family level needs.
Aging Out of Foster Care
Each year approximately 20,000 children “age out” of the U.S. child welfare system without a permanent adoptive family. They are often cut off financially. Left without the support and guidance of loving parents, they often drop out of school, be unemployed, and be dependent on public assistance. Many find themselves in prison, homeless, or parents at an early age.