Foster Care in Cook County
As of June 2012, more than 7,000 children were in some type of foster care in Cook County. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for monitoring these children and their foster placements. DCFS often contracts with private social service agencies through Purchase of Service (POS) contracts. POS agencies are numerous and varied, and provide services for a majority of foster children.
Many different types of placements exist for foster children. For any child entering foster care, placement with relatives must be explored. More than 2,000 children are in relative foster care in Cook County. For children for whom relative placement is not an option, traditional foster care is the next alternative. Traditional foster homes are licensed by the state, and the foster parents in these homes must undergo training before any foster children are placed with them.
For children with special needs such as complex medical or mental health issues, other placements may be considered. One such placement is Specialized Foster Care. Specialized foster homes are also licensed and monitored by the state, just as traditional foster homes are; however, the foster parents in these homes receive additional training to prepare them to care for children with special needs. If Specialized Foster Care cannot meet the needs of a child with special needs, a group home or residential placement may be considered. In a group home, children reside with other foster children, and are provided with structure and on site staff and services. In a residential placement, children with special needs also live together, but more services, staff and structure are provided.
Teens and young adults in foster care have two additional options available for placement: Transitional Living Programs and Independent Living Options. To enter these programs, youth must meet certain requirements, including a minimum age to participate. Transitional Living Programs allow teens to live with other teens in a structured setting and provide services to prepare for independence. Independent Living Options allow teens and young adults to live on their own in their community while receiving support from DCFS such as assistance with college and employment.
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