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Why children come into 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 children 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 the most common reasons a child may enter foster care.  It is not uncommon for children to have experienced several of these situations.  For some, it is a onetime event, while others have experienced multiple events during a significant period.

  • Neglect
    Common types of neglect include withholding of a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, hygiene, education, 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.
  • Physical Abuse
    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.
  • Sexual Abuse
    Sexual abuse can fall along a continuum and can include exposure to sexual materials, sexual behaviors, or sexual acts with a child.
  • Mental Injury
    Mental injury is harm to a child’s psychological capacity or emotional stability evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment of a child’s functioning.
  • Addiction
    When a parent is struggling with addiction issues, such as drugs or alcohol, it negatively impacts their ability to meet the needs of their child(ren). 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.
  • Incarceration
    A child may be placed into foster care due to the incarceration of parents when no alternative caregivers are available for the child.
  • Voluntary Placement
    Occasionally, due to difficult family circumstances, some parents have voluntarily placed their children into foster care.


For the most recent detailed information about the children in foster care, see


Department of Human Services, Child Protection Information and Guidelines

Long-Term Consequences of Abuse and Neglect

Documentary: ReMoved Part One & Part Two:
The ReMoved Films have been created with the intent to bring light to the, often, unknown subjects of Foster Care and Child Abuse/Neglect. The films are available online to watch for free.

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