It is difficult to imagine anything more frightening to a child than being neglected, threatened, beaten, or molested by an adult who is supposed to be his or her primary source of care and protection. Yet throughout human history, children have been abandoned, incarcerated, battered, mutilated, exploited, and even murdered by their caregivers. Although the problem of child maltreatment is an old one, both the systematic study of child abuse and the legally sanctioned mechanisms for child protection are relatively new and have gained momentum only in the last half of the twentieth century.
Foster care programs offer temporary food, housing and domestic care for children from birth to age eighteen. While programs vary from state to state, typically foster care is used by children's welfare services when a child is identified as, or suspected of, having been orphaned, abandoned, abused, or neglected. A child may be placed in foster care for as little as a few hours or as long as the remainder of their childhood. Once a child has been put into foster care, the state children's welfare agency work on behalf of the child toward the goal of family reunification or termination of parental rights and adoption.
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