Full-time residential. The most common form of foster care, it is defined by the child’s spending at least five nights a week in its caregivers’ home (unless the foster plan allows for occasional interruptions, of course).
Part-time (daytime). A non-residential form of foster care, it is recommended when the child should not be separated from its birth family, but both parts – the children and their parents – require intensive support to prevent the family group from falling apart.
Part-time care may concern a few hours a day or a few days a week (weekend, after-school activities, holidays), according to the child’s birth parents’ ability to provide for its needs, albeit partially. These so-called “lighter” forms of foster care and hospitality, however, cannot dispense with the ongoing supervision and support of expert caseworkers.
Emergency foster care
– Babies and toddlers (0-24 months). A short-term residential placement in the interest of very young children who are in need of constant and reliable attention. This opportunity allows social workers and officials to take more time to evaluate a case and decide what measures to take and how to proceed “in the minor’s best interests” (possible scenarios include: the child’s return to its birth family, placement in foster care, and adoption).
– Emergency procedures can be activated when children are suddenly confronted with situations of severe distress or potential danger and require immediate attention. Social services opt for emergency foster care when the minor cannot be placed within its own extended family.
Teenagers and young people past 18, The foster care of teenagers and young adults may involve greater challenges than is usually the case with care for smaller children, due among other things to the emotional intensity inherent in this stage of life, a teenager’s will to freedom, and issues connected with the construction of a grown-up personality. The foster placement of teenagers is still comparatively rare and imperfectly theorized in our country, but we can and should get rid of a bias according to which foster care is for small children alone and devise new strategies aimed at this older demographic.
Unusually complex situations Over the last two decades, the foster care of minors with issues has been increasingly employed as an alternative to the placement of children in external structures (or as a follow-up solution after a spell in an institution). Severe issues may include the following:
– maltreatment at home;
– trouble in the birth family (parents with addictions or mental problems);
– serious health concerns (chronic illness, disability etc.) or mental/emotional problems, occasionally connected with altered behavior patterns.
The foster care of unaccompanied foreign minors raises many of the issues commonly involved in the foster care of teenagers, but also introduces a number of highly specific concerns. In this case, a foster plan needs to take into account the reasons and goals of each young adult’s migratory project, ranging from the reasons that have prompted him to leave his homeland to the ties that still connect him to his birth family. A thorough participative analysis of at least these three parameters will allow caseworkers to select a suitable form of external placement, be it a homocultural foster placement or a “regular” out-of-home solution. The successful integration of teenagers of foreign origin into Italian families is a testament to the viability of this second option.
– Homocultural. A foster placement in which families or individual caregivers belong to the same ethnic group.
Family-to-family care and neighborhood foster care are support strategies for struggling parents that rely on the same operational principle: the combination of professional and layman attention for children and families facing situation of vulnerability and distress. More specifically, the involvement of the local “community” (neighbors or larger social groups sharing a part of their time and energies to address a situation) is actively encouraged.