10 Ways to Improve Foster Care in 2024

Dr. John DeGarmo
5 min readJan 28, 2024

The foster care system continues to struggle. Children are being placed into a foster care system where there are not enough homes. Mental health issues are on the rise. Caseworkers are overwhelmed and understaffed, and the lack of funds are only part of the problem. Here are 10 ways to improve the foster care system in 2024.

  1. Trauma Assessments
    When a child is placed into a foster care home, foster families many times are not completely aware of how trauma has affected the child. In order for foster families to be fully prepared and equipped to help the child, a trauma assessment needs to be made on each child placed within 10 days of being placed into foster care, and the information
    shared with the foster families.

    2. Permanency
    The average length a child remains in the foster care system is 21 months, according to a study by the Ann E. Casey Foundation. The longer children remain in foster care, the greater risk they have of developing issues of trust, attachment, and mental health issues.
    Thus, it is important that children do not remain in foster care for long periods of time. Whether it is through adoption or reunification, permanency with family needs to be established for children in care.

    3. Family Support
    The end goal of foster care is reunification. However, before a child is placed into foster care, agencies and families need to work together in an attempt at keeping the child within the family, if possible. More mental health, substance abuse treatment, support, and services are
    needed so birthparents can have access to the treatment services they need.

    4. Therapy
    Mental health issues continue to rise for all children. For children in foster care, issues from anxiety can manifest themselves in a number of ways. Professional therapy and counseling on a continuing basis, both while in foster care, and afterwards is critical for the well-being of the
    child. In addition, other forms of therapy, such as art, music, animal, and play therapy should also be available.

5. Sharing Information
When a child in foster care moves from one home to the next, from one agency to the next, and even from one state to the next, many times their information does not follow them. As a result, the child often does not get the services they need. Child welfare agencies and foster care programs need to share existing evidence and case studies with each other in order to
better identify and implement approaches that will work best within their area.

6. Funding
Child welfare agencies are struggling to recruit and retain foster parents. In addition, caseworkers are overworked, overwhelmed, understaffed, and underpaid. More funding needs to be allocated, in order to better recruit new foster parents, provide much needed training and support services
for foster parents, hire more case workers, and better pay for caseworkers and child welfare workers.

7. Helping Those Who Age Out
Youth in foster care who transition or age out of the system many times do not have any sort of support. As a result, youth who age out of the system often face an array of problems and challenges, including greater risks of unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration. More wrap-around services need to be in place for those who have aged out of the system.

8. Reunification Reform
While the end goal of foster care is reunification between the child and the birth family, premature reunification often leads to a child’s reentry into the foster care system or even death. Furthermore, current law allows uprooting and placing the child with an unemployed relative
who has ongoing domestic violence, anger issues, and a substance abuse addiction simply because they are blood relatives, even if the child has never met that relative.

9. Kinship care
Kinship care should be considered when possible. Kinship foster care is an out-of-home arrangement for full-time care by relatives, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and sometimes even older siblings. Kinship care allows families to stay together, and studies
indicate it helps improve mental health, stability, and behavior. Kinship families need to have the same sort of benefits that foster parents have, including financial support and a daily per diem to help with the high cost of raising children who suffer from trauma and anxiety.

10. Counseling for Foster Parents and Caseworkers
Working with children placed in foster care can very difficult. Indeed, both foster parents and caseworkers often suffer from their own trauma and anxiety, as they experience feelings of grief, loss, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress. Both foster parents and caseworkers should have
the opportunity for ongoing counseling services when needed.

Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDx Talk presenter. Dr. John is the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute. He and his wife have had over 60 children from foster care come through their home. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN, FOX News, Good Morning, America, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS stations across the nation. He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail.com, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo Foster Care Expert, or at The Foster Care Institute.



Dr. John DeGarmo

Leading foster care expert and international empowerment speaker