More than 500,000 children will close their eyes tonight as wards of the state in foster care. They are waiting for the security, stability and love of permanent families. Foster care was created as a short-term safety net for children in crisis, however, on average children will languish in care for more than two years. More than half the children leaving foster care will return home to their birth parents, and about 18 percent will leave foster care to adoptive families. For some, however, reunification with their parents or adoption is not an option.
For these children, a supported legal guardianship with a relative or another caring adult can be a way out of foster care to a safe, permanent family. Guardianship gives legal rights to a child’s caregiver so that he or she can take responsibility for a child’s safekeeping and make decisions about education and health needs. When it is necessary to remove a child from his or her family because of abuse or neglect, research shows foster placements with relatives are good for children. They are less likely to change schools and more likely to be placed with their other siblings.