Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

7
Family Foster Care: A Multitude of Possibilities

Group living or foster family care for children who cannot live at home with their families: which shall it be? This debate has been going on in the field of child welfare since the recognition that an almshouse was undesirable for children. Charles Loring Brace set a powerful example by taking groups of children out West to place them with farm families who would step forth at each train stop to choose them [ Brace 1872]. A foster family was, and often still is, considered to be a more humane alternative than a large institution. There is in fact a refreshing and challenging dialogue in the literature on how to combine the advantages of both institutional group and foster family care [ Lewis 1987; Maluccio 1987; Arieli and Feuerstein 1987a, 1987b; Polsky 1987; Whittaker 1987].

Over the years family foster care has come under severe attack in the American media. However, it is not the model that deserves attack but rather the indiscriminate use of family foster care without providing adequate screening, supervision, and training of foster parents.

If family foster care is considered as part of an array of services, there is room for both institutional and family foster care. Just as institutional care has to identify those services best provided in an institutional setting and find solutions by developing specialized programs to meet the many different needs of the children and youth requiring care, so family foster care needs to develop a range of models and options. The various models of family foster care will share many similarities. Each model, however, has some unique features.

All family foster care programs share certain characteristics. These are described as well as unique program designs to meet needs of specific families, children, and youth. This discussion draws on the major contribu-

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