What is Foster Care?

What is Foster Care? 2021-12-03T17:40:03+03:00

Foster Care is “the placement of a child with a person who is not the child’s parent, relative or guardian and who is willing to undertake the care and maintenance of that child” (Children Act 2001). Foster care is a formal arrangement, which involves the selection, assessment, training, registration, support and supervision of the foster parent by the DCS. It is a short-term solution that aims at eventually reunifying the child with the family of origin or exploring long-term placement for permanency. 

Foster care is legally recognized in the Children Act, 2001. The Act provides provisions for administering foster care in Part XI (Sections 147–153) and Schedule 4. 

Children who qualify 

  • Children who have lost both parents 
  • Children who are completely abandoned (currently should only apply to emergency situations) 
  • Children separated from parent/s due to detention, under rehabilitation or emergency, where the child is unable to live with extended family (including those living/working on street, those whose parent/s are certified to be terminally ill or mentally incapacitated) 
  • Children who are at-risk of being placed in institutional care because the family is unwilling or unable to care for him/her (especially children under three years of age and children with disabilities) 
  • Children unable to live with parent/s or extended family in his/her best interests, including children who experienced physical, sexual, emotional abuse, exploitation or neglect 

Foster care may not be appropriate where the child:   

  • Has been found guilty of a criminal offence, unless provided leave of court  
  • Needs therapeutic treatment and care to deal with a physical or mental disability or behavioral issues  
  • Is removed from his/her home due to financial or material poverty and where there is a danger of separating siblings 


Who can qualify as foster parent?

Foster parents should be as diverse as the needs of children who require foster care.  

The Children’s Act (2001) requires that foster parents:  

  • Must be Kenyan citizens, living in Kenya (as a foster child cannot be taken outside of Kenya) 
  • Section 148(3) states that no person shall be appointed to be a foster parent unless he/she is resident in Kenya or has been a resident in the country for a period of at least twelve months continuously 
  • Must be aged between 25 years and 65 years 
  • Can be a single individual or a couple. However, a single individual can only foster a child of their own gender 
  • Must be of sound mind and not have a criminal record

 How do I become a Foster parent? 

  • Go to the Sub-county Children Office nearest to you 
  • Fill a foster care application form at the children’s office 
  • Participate in Foster parents’ assessment and training 
  • Participate in the preparation and placement of the child in the family 
  • Family support and monitoring 

Contact: The Tree of Life for more information or visit www.socialprotection.go.ke  


 Which documents are needed on the side of the Foster Family? 

At the time being, these are the documents required (subject to change with the new bill under approval):  

  • Approval certificate from DCS: the Foster Care Family has to be carefully assessed and should receive a certificate from the DCS. Certificate is given once the family has gone through the screening process by the children’s officers and social workers involved.  
  • Foster care registration number/code from DCS. 
  • Police Clearance, Certificate of good conduct – no criminal record. 
  • Two character reference letters. 
  • A letter from the local Chief to establish the prospective foster parents’ good standing in the community 
  • A medical assessment by a certified medical practitioner.

Types of foster care  

  • Foster family care: is the placement of a child with a person who is not the child’s parent, a relative or guardian and who is willing to voluntarily undertake the care and maintenance of that child for a period up to 12 months, subject to renewal for a maximum of 3 years.  
  • Emergency foster care: is the placement of a child with a pre-selected, vetted and qualified emergency foster parent for a few days, weeks or months. 
  • Community-based foster homes: is the placement of a group of children, not more than six, whose parents are untraceable, orphaned or are in need of specific support, in rented houses within the community and are cared-for by a home mother/caretaker who is recruited by an organisation supporting foster care. 


  • A child can be placed under foster care services for a period 12 months renewable for a maximum of 3 years.  
  • The DCS can revoke the certificate and prior notice should be given where applicable.  
  • A foster parent shall not remove a child from the jurisdiction of the Republic of Kenya without Leave of Court and such leave shall only be granted upon exceptional circumstances.  
  • The child is not permanently separated from his/ her natural family and neither does (s)he acquire any rights of inheritance in the fostering family.  

The support of reintegration to biological families, Kinship Care and Foster Care services in Kenya are part of the currently ongoing Care Reform process promoted by the Kenyan Government.