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Foster Parenting

Cultural And International Implications

Most of the industrialized nations of the world have formalized arrangements for foster care, although the reasons for implementing out-of-home care may vary widely. Many nations, particularly in war-torn areas, in contrast to the United States, make use of institutionalized care in orphanages, as the most cost-efficient response to many children suddenly needing care. As noted above, kinship care and the use of a wider definition of family (including tribal connections, godparents, and other fictive kin) is common in other cultures. The widespread acceptance of kinship care for African Americans has its roots in the customs coming from Africa with slaves, honed during slavery when parents and children might be arbitrarily separated, and other relatives would assume responsibility if possible. New Zealand initiatives for the care of Maori children have evolved to encompass the separate constructs of extended family and tribe in planning for placement in a child's best interest. In Oceania relatives have a claim to the care of children; in Hawaii grandparents have a stronger traditional claim than parents to raising children, even with parents available and able to care for their children (Hegar and Scannapieco 1999). Thus, other societies have recognized and adopted into their culture mechanisms for keeping children within the family, societal group, or accepted identity subgroup if at all possible.

The question of caring for children outside their parental homes continues, especially in areas where war and migration during civil unrest or drought have again created the problem. International adoption has been one response to situations in these troubled parts of the world in the twenty-first century. Americans and others have adopted children from Bosnia, Ukraine, Russia, and other nations. A response to the Chinese policy of encouraging one-child families, coupled with traditional high value of a son, has led to international adoption of abandoned female children. Regulation and overseeing of homes where these children are fostered and then adopted is of interest to contemporary child welfare.

The AIDS/HIV epidemic may call for a new kind of fostering in countries where the disease is decimating the population. In many areas of Africa, traditional extended family ties have provided for the care of children orphaned by the virus. However, the prevalence of the disease, as it moves to younger and younger age groups, may overwhelm the traditional systems already in place; aging relatives may not be able to care for the many children whose parents are dying. With infection of women in their earlier childbearing years, more infants will likely be born HIV-positive themselves and be orphaned, with no relatives available to provide the traditional care. The solutions to these problems are daunting for nations already overburdened with the expenses of emerging into the world economy as well as the costs of public health initiatives. These dire developing emergencies in the care of children may well engender new initiatives and supranational cooperation in the best interest of coming generations.


Encyclopedia of Social Work. (1995). 19th edition. Washington: National Association of Social Workers Press.

Fahlberg, V. I. (1991). A Child's Journey through Placement. Indianapolis: Perspectives Press.

Hegar, R. L., and Scannapieco, M., eds. (1999). Kinship Foster Care: Policy, Practice, and Research. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jordan, A., and Rodway, M. R. (1984). "Correlates of Effective Foster Parenting." Social Work Research and Abstracts 20:27–31

Kluger, M. P.; Alexander, G.; and Curtis, P. A., eds. (2000). What Works in Child Welfare. Washington: CWLA Press.

Pecora, P. J.; Whittaker, J. K.; Maluccio, A. N.; and Barth, R. (2000). The Child Welfare Challenge: Policy, Practice, Research. 2nd edition. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.

Trattner, W. I. (1999). From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America, 6th edition. New York: The Free Press.

Other Resources

Jane Addams School of Social Work, University of Chicago. The Kinship Care Practice Project. Available from http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/college/kincare.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (2000). Available from http://calib.com/nccanch.

Washington State. Fosterparentscope Training. Available from http://www.dshs.wa.gov/fosterparents/training/index.htm.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesFoster Parenting - History, Modern Trends, Cultural And International Implications