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Foster care is the placement of children into temporary living situations, through no fault of their own, when parents or caregivers are unable to take care of them and whose need for care has come to the attention of child welfare professionals.  

The intention of foster care is to provide a safe environment while professionals work with the family to address the concerns that lead to the need for foster care, with the ultimate goal of the child’s safe return home (also referred to as reunification).  

When reunification is not possible, the State will take the legal steps necessary to terminate parental rights in order to become the child’s legal guardian. Once this has happened, the State will seek permanent placement options. 

*As of October 2021, there were 641 children in Minnesota in need of adoptive families immediately. Of the 641 children waiting for adoption, most have experienced trauma during their critical developmental years. Many will need additional educational, medical or psychological help as they grow toward maturity.

  • 56% are siblings who need to be adopted together
  • 63% are children of non-Caucasian background
  • 66% have a documented special need, including physical, mental, emotional or a behavioral disability
  • 43% are children between the ages of 12-18



The reasons behind a child’s placement into foster care can vary widely depending on the unique needs and circumstances of the family of origin.  All children in foster care have experienced traumatic events and have unique needs.  

Due to their experiences, some may lack trust in adults to meet their needs and keep them safe. They may show their feelings through aggression, social withdrawal, emotional introversion, generalized fear/anxiety and other behaviors that require a high level of patience, supervision and guidance. These children may also need guidance in learning the basics of daily routines, self-care and social skills. Most importantly, children placed into foster care need to feel supported, safe and cared for. 

Below you will find common reasons a child may enter into foster care.  It is not uncommon for children to have experienced several of these situations.  

Physical Abuse 

Physical abuse is one of the primary reasons children enter foster care. Physical abuse is the intentional harm, or threat of harm, to a child by a parent or caregiver. While physical abuse is commonly seen as the act of hitting, it may also include keeping a child in an unsafe environment which could lead to physical harm.   


Neglect by a caregiver can come in many forms.  Common types of neglect include the withholding of care necessary to meet a child’s basic needs, such as: food, shelter, hygiene, education and/or medical needs.  

Neglect can also be caused by leaving a child unattended for varying lengths of time or in an unsanitary or unsafe environment. 

Sexual Abuse 

Sexual abuse can fall along a continuum and can include: exposure to sexual materials, such as videos or other pornographic material; exposure to sexual behaviors; fondling; and direct (or indirect) sexual acts with a child.  


When a parent is struggling with addiction issues, such as drugs or alcohol, it negatively impacts their ability to meet the needs of their children. Their actions can lead to increased risk of harm, neglect and abuse.  When the risk is especially high, children are placed into foster care while it is determined if the parents can manage their addiction issues. 

Parental drug abuse continues to be the most frequently identified primary reason for children to be placed in out-of-home care. Removing children from the home for parental drug abuse has increased from 17% of all new placements in 2013 to 27% of all new placements in 2020, with a high of 32% in 2018.


A child may be placed into foster care due to the incarnation of parent(s) when no alternative caregivers are available for the child.   

*During 2020, about 4,800 children and young adults entered out-of-home placement. The most common primary reasons for removal from the home are:

  • 27% due to parental drug abuse
  • 13% due to allegations of neglect
  • 7% due to child mental health needs.

* (DHS-4760-ENG)


Foster Adopt Minnesota’s photo listing of Minnesota’s waiting children РMeet the Kids
Department of Human Services, Child Protection Information and Guidelines
Long-Term Consequences of Abuse and Neglect

DHS Fact Sheets:
Adoption: Finding families for Minnesota’s Waiting Children (10/22)
Foster Care: Temporary out-of-home care for children DHS Fact Sheet (10/22)

Book: Adopting the Hurt Child By Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky  

Documentary: ReMoved Part One & Part Two:
The ReMoved Films have been created‚ÄĮwith the intent to‚ÄĮbring light to the often unknown subjects of Foster Care and Child Abuse/Neglect. The films are available‚ÄĮonline to watch for free.¬†

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