Not every parent is fit to handle the responsibility and stresses associated with raising children. Also, certain circumstances, such as disease or imprisonment, can render an otherwise responsible parent unfit to care for her children. In certain cases, the children may need to be placed in foster care. The biological parents may be required to pay child support.
Child Support Obligation
State and federal laws recognize that biological parents have a duty to provide support for their children. In a divorce situation, the court awards custody of the children to one of the parents and typically orders the other parent to provide support. In foster care, the child is cared for by an appointed caregiver. The duty to support the child should not fall solely on the caregiver's shoulders. Just as with a divorce, the parents may be required to support their child when she is placed in foster care.
It is in the state's interests to ensure that the children of that state are cared for properly, receive nutrition and education and have a safe place to live. When biological parents cannot provide these things, the state may place a child in foster care. Abuse and neglect are common reasons to place a child in foster care; other reasons include abandonment, physical or mental illness, substance abuse and imprisonment.
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Length of Child Support Obligation
Typically, the child remains in foster care until the social services department determines that the parent is fit to raise the child again. This usually means complying with certain requirements, such as taking parental responsibility courses and seeking treatment for certain conditions. A child may remain in foster care until he reaches the age of majority or, in some cases, is formally adopted. As long as the child is in foster care, the biological parents must pay support. If circumstances arise -- such as needing to spend money to improve the safety and habitability of the home -- the payments can be modified. It is important that the biological parents remain in contact with the social services department and seek assistance when necessary.
Penalties for Not Paying Support
If a parent ignores her support obligation, the consequences can be severe. In Illinois, for example, the Department of Children and Family Services can enforce a support order by placing a lien on tax refunds and bank accounts, suspending the parent's driver license and referring the matter to court.