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Types of Out-of-Home Care

When children are removed from their families and placed in out-of-home care, they may be placed in a number of different types of settings. Current laws and policies require that children be placed in the least restrictive setting that can meet their needs, and that relatives or kin be given priority in placement decisions. In addition to relatives’ homes, other family settings include family foster care and treatment foster care.

When needed, children can be placed in residential or group care. In some communities, children entering out-of-home care are placed into emergency foster care settings which may be either a family or a group setting. Shared family care is an innovative approach being used in some communities in which birth parents and their children move into a supervised, supportive setting together.

Family Foster Care

In family foster care, children live with nonrelative adults who have been trained, assessed, and licensed or certified to provide shelter and care. Almost half of the children in out-of-home care live in nonrelative family foster homes.

Relative or Kinship Care

Kinship care refers to placements of children with relatives or, in some cases, close family friends (often referred to as non-relatives). Relatives are the preferred placement for children who must be removed from their birth parents, as this kind of placement maintains the children’s connections with their families.

Kinship care in our area involves an assessment and background check process to ensure the safety and suitability of the home along with supportive services for the child and caregivers. Blood relatives may be eligible for an increased rate of economic assistance through the Relative Caregiver Program under the State of Florida’s Economic Self Sufficiency Services.

Treatment Foster Care

Treatment foster care involves placement of children with foster families who have been specially trained to care for children with certain medical or behavioral needs. In our area, Lakeview Center offers therapeutic foster homes and developmental foster homes. Children with complex medical needs are served by medical foster homes operated under the Department of Health.

Treatment foster care programs require more training for foster parents, provide more support for children and caregivers than regular family foster care, and have lower limits on the number of children that can be cared for in the home. Treatment foster care is preferred over residential or group care because it maintains children in a family setting.

Residential or Group Home Care

While it is preferred that children in out-of-home care live with relatives or other families, some children have physical or behavioral needs that require the structure and services of residential or group settings. These settings include community-based group homes, campus-style residential facilities, and secure facilities. Residential programs, and the staff who work in them, are generally focused on working with children who have certain special needs. Examples include group homes for adolescents who are involved in the juvenile justice system or who have difficult behaviors that require 24-hour awake supervision.

Shelter Care

Children removed from their birth families may be first placed into a shelter placement. This may be a group facility or a family setting designed to keep the children safe while assessing their needs and finding a more appropriate placement to meet their needs. These placements are intended to be short-term.

Long-term Relative Custody

Long-Term Relative Custody describes the permanency status of children or youth in out-of-home care who are considered unlikely to be reunified with their families or achieve permanency through adoption or guardianship. This legal designation is most often used to allow a child to remain under the care and custody of a family member (and in some cases a non-relative) who is willing to continue to care for the child, but does not wish to formally adopt the child for a variety of reasons.

Adoptive Homes and At-Risk Foster Homes

Children who have been through the foster care system and adoption has been identified as the case plan goal will be moved from a foster care home into an adoptive placement home as soon as a match with the possible forever family is made. These adoptive homes have been screened similarly to foster homes to ensure the safety and well-being of the children. An “at-risk” adoptive home is a screened home which will care for a child who is likely not to be reunified, but whose parental rights have not yet been terminated. Until the parental rights have been terminated and the appeal process time frame has passed, these children are considered “at-risk” to returning to the foster care system, returned to parents, or placed with relatives.

Sponsored by Lakeview Center and the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families