Community Foster Care is usually used for children who have to be taken from their current situation in order to keep them safe.
Although these kids are removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse, it is believed that the birth parents are willing and able to change their behavior enough for family reunification. While the child is being fostered, the parents will be going through re-education and/or therapy, and their behavior and progress are closely monitored by social services and the foster parents.
There is usually a fair amount of supervised contact between parents and child as the parents learn and practice new parenting skills. These visits may be in the foster home or at the social services office. This is a probationary period for the parents to demonstrate that they are willing to make the changes needed to be reunited with their child or children.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (PL 105-89) requires states to initiate or join proceedings to terminate parental rights for parents who have not met rehabilitation goals in 18 months. The purpose of this act is to allow these children the opportunity to find permanent families more quickly and minimize their time in foster care.
This kind of fostering can be very challenging for foster parents, especially if the children in their care are returned to what they believe is an unsatisfactory living situation. It’s even harder if the children later return to foster care after further neglect or abuse. Some agencies place a great deal of confidence in the judgment of the foster parents about how ready the birth family is to take the child back, but this is not always the case. Ultimately, the foster family has no legal standing in these matters and the goal of the program is to reunite children with their birth parents.
In some cases the birth-parents may eventually decide themselves that the children will be better off in permanent new families. If parents fail to meet court-mandated requirements, the children become eligible for adoption and are often adopted by their foster families.