Such care is informal and unregulated by the State. Foster care can also be understood as formal care, typically provided by adults who are not related to the child, but may include formalized kinship care. It is usually for a limited period until the child can return home or move into a more permanent placement such as adoption.
In emergency situations, such as armed conflict, informal fostering often occurs spontaneously when a family takes in an unaccompanied child. Also, in some emergency situations, agencies have organized a quasi-formal type of foster care to ensure immediate, family-based care for unaccompanied children. Such foster care should be formally arranged by the local authority or child protection organisation and include assessing each child’s best interests; screening, training, and monitoring of caretakers; and planning for the longer term needs of each child.
Foster care can provide the advantages of family-based care within a child’s own community. In some situations, particularly spontaneous care initiated during an emergency, it can become de facto adoption in settings where State child protection services and formalization of care arrangements are very limited or do not exist.
Foster care plays an important role in a situation where a child’s own family is not providing adequately for his or her care. It can provide protection and care for the child while the family situation is improved, with the eventual aim of family reunification.
It is vital that children are provided opportunities to express their wishes and concerns regarding with whom they live and have contact. The appointment of a legal guardian is a means of ensuring their opinions are taken into account.
Foster caretakers often receive support to meet the child’s needs and prevent placement breakdown. This may include parenting guidance and access to basic services for the child. Payment for care requires thoughtful consideration and should not encourage the separation of children from their families, or the use of a child for financial gain. All placements should be regulated to ensure the standards of care protect the child and encourage her development.
This body of literature provides examples from around the world of spontaneous, informal and formal fostering. It includes guidance on standards of care and child care policy.