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Foster Care Overview

  • Why are children placed in foster care?
  • Who are the children who need care?
  • Types of care
  • What is the role of a foster parent?
  • What rights do foster parents have?
  • How are children placed with a foster family?
  • What is a “permanency plan”?

Why are children placed in foster care?

Children are mainly placed in foster care when it is determined that the child is unsafe or at high risk of maltreatment.  The Office of Children’s Services works with the family to implement the least intrusive approach to keep children safe, first with consideration of an in-home safety plan and last, an out-of-home placement. 

Other children are in care because of a voluntary placement by their parents. Parents may be unable to care for their children because of parental illness, medical needs of the child, family emergencies or planned, parental absence from the home.

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Who are the children who need care?

Children living in foster care may be infants, toddlers, preschoolers, grade school age, or teenagers and may be a part of a group of brothers and sisters.  They may be any ethnicity or race, and come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and families.  A foster child is as individual as any other child, each with their own special personality, abilities, interests, and potential.

Helping Alaskan Native children grow with a strong connection to their heritage is very important to OCS.  Alaskan Native families who can share their cultures and traditions with children are needed throughout the state.

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Types of Care

Relative Caregivers:  Care by a relative, is the preferred choice for out-of-home placement.  Relatives have an option to care for a child with or without a foster home license.

Foster Home/Foster Group Home:  Family homes that are licensed to provide ongoing care for children in a time of family crises.  This type of foster care is what most foster parents choose to do, at least initially.  Some licensed homes:

  • Serve children of a certain age. 
  • Serve as emergency shelters. 
  • Specialize in teens who are getting ready to leave foster care. 
  • Provide care for teenagers who are on legal probation. 

Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ):  DJJ is responsible for youth who are in the custody of the DJJ who have committed criminal offenses and/or are committed to legal probation by the court.  If, necessary  youth may be placed outside of their home, to ensure adequate care and supervision.  This may include a relative placement or a DJJ foster home that is willing to provide structure, guidance and intense supervision.  Foster parents who care for teens from Juvenile Justice work with a probation officer instead of a social worker.

Guardianship Homes:  The legal guardian is someone appointed by the Court to care for a child until he or she is age 18.  A guardian is not a child's legal parent and does not have the legal rights and responsibilities as an adoptive parent would.  The child’s parents retain certain parental rights to the child in a legal guardianship.

Adoptive Home:  Children who are free for adoption (either by termination of parental rights, or by relinquishment) are placed in an adoptive home.  Adoption means that the legal rights and responsibilities of the parent are transferred to the adopting parent by the court.  Adoption gives all of the legal authority and responsibility to the adopting parent so the adopting parent can care for the child without the supervision of the court or the Office of Childrens Services.

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What is the role of a foster parent?

As a foster parent, you are responsible for the temporary care of a child who has been placed outside his or her own home. During a time of disruption and change, a child needs a safe, stable, and nurturing home. The role of the foster parent is toAs a foster parent, you are responsible for the temporary care of a child who has been placed outside his or her own home. During a time of disruption and change, a child needs a safe, stable, and nurturing home. The role of the foster parent is to:

  • Provide temporary care for children, giving them guidance, and a safe, stable, nurturing environment.
  • Work with the caseworker and the child’s family so that the child can safely return home.
  • Participate with the caseworker and the child’s parents in supporting a case plan.
  • Adhere to the confidentiality of the child and his or her family.
  • Understand the need for, and goals of, family contacts and help with visits.
  • Establish and follow through with the family contact plan with parents and siblings.
  • Help the child cope with the separation from his or her home.
  • Encourage and supervise school attendance, and participate in teacher conferences.
  • Provide positive reinforcement, redirection, realistic expectations, and consistent limits with the children.
  • Work with the agency in arranging for the child’s medical and dental care.
  • Work with the child on creating a Life Book (a combination of a story, diary, and scrapbook) that gives the child a meaningful history of their life experiences.
  • Stay current and complete required training.
  • Inform the caseworker promptly about any problems or concerns so that needs can be met through available services.
  • Maintain records (e.g., health, medical and dental treatment records; immunization records; and school records and report cards, etc.), and return to the assigned caseworker when the child leaves your home.
  • Respect the child’s culture/religion.
  • Report any household changes.
  • Report any suspected abuse or neglect.
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What rights do foster parents have?

Foster parents have the right to:

  • Decide whether to accept placement of a child in their foster home.
  • Define and limit the number of children that can be placed in the foster home, within legal capacity.
  • Receive known information on each child who is to be placed in the foster home.
  • Expect regular visits from the child’s caseworker to exchange information, plan together, and discuss any concerns about the child.
  • Participate in regular conferences.
  • Receive notice of, and participate in, case plan reviews and court permanency hearings on a child placed in their home.
  • Receive training on meeting the needs of children in care.
  • Fair hearing on licensure actions on their home.

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How are children placed with a family?

In placing a child in a home, agency staff tries to find a home that best suits the child’s needs. Many times, there will be a Team Decision Meeting (TDM) that involves the child’s parents, tribe/tribal representative if the child is a tribal member, caseworker, supervisor, service providers, extending family members, and any other person the child or the child’s parent identifies. A successful match between the child and the foster home will make a big difference in a child’s life. Listed below are some considerations when a child is placed in out of home care:

  • Relatives: Are relatives available who would be willing to provide a safe and suitable placement for the child?
  • Previous foster home: If the child was previously placed in foster care, is it appropriate to return to the same foster home?
  • Placing siblings together: If the child already has sisters or brothers in foster care, can the child be placed in the same home, if appropriate? If several children need placement, can a home be found where they can live together?
  • Religious background: Has the parent expressed a religious preference concerning placement of the child? Where practicable and in the best interests of the child, the preference regarding religion of a parent will be honored.
  • Alaska Native/American Indian heritage: Can an Alaska Native home be found? The child’s tribe must be notified when placing a Native American Indian child.
  • Neighborhood and school: Can a home be found in the same school district so that the child does not have to change schools?
  • Special needs: Does the child have specific emotional, or special physical, psychological, or medical needs requiring a foster home is equipped and trained to provide for his or her needs?
  • Other children in the home: If the foster home already has other children (biological or foster), are they willing to share their toys, rooms, and attention with another child?

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What is the "permanency plan"?

Permanency planning is a term that is used in child welfare to determine the plan to have a child leave the custody of the state agency in as timely and safe a manner as possible. Permanency planning begins at the investigation and assumption of custody, so that a plan is initially designed to focus on how the child and family will successfully and safely exit the state system.

Office of Children's Services
P.O. Box 110630
Juneau, AK 99811-0630

Alaska Center for Resource Families
815 Second Avenue Suite 101
Fairbanks, AK 9970
acrf@nwresource.org