Foster Care involves Foster Homes and Foster Parents who are like weigh stations; they take care of the kids for a few days/weeks until the kids get shipped off to the next Foster parents. The cycle repeats until the kids are placed with a family member or are adopted. And no, kids don't get adopted by foster families nearly as much as TV and movies make you think. It does happen but not often.
Kids go into Foster Care when they're in the system short-term; when the parent(s) are going through rehab or there's another family member willing to take them or something like that. Group Home kids are in it for the long run. Michael and Linc would've probably started out in Foster Care while someone hunted down their Dad or another living relative. Once it became apparent that there was no one around willing or able to handle the boys they would've been moved into a group home.
- At what age would they be allowed to leave foster care and live on their own?
Group Home/Foster Care: In the U.S. 18 is when you become a legal adult (National average of law) and so once you enter The System you're in until you're eighteen; at which point you're out and on your own.
- If they potentially got bounced from home to home would that also mean switching schools?
Group Home: Yeah, switching schools is a big thing, every time you moved homes you'd switch schools. Most kids in the system didn't stay in the same school for a year. In fact? I know people who have bounced through fifteen-twenty different Group Homes in a matter of a few years and just about as many schools.
Foster Care: With every new Foster Parent you'd get a new school, many kids go through five or ten or more in a single month alone in foster care. The thing you have to remember is that Foster Care isn't meant to be permanent, thy shift and move depending on a multitude of reasons. Some Foster Parents can only house a child for a certain amount of time (Usually a week or a month or something like that), some have too many children and sometimes the Foster Parent just can't/won't/doesn't want to handle a particular kids anymore.
- How many people would live together in one room/home?
Group Home: In Chicago/Illinois there's an entire town that was created and is maintained for the express purpose of housing orphans/homeless kids/kids up for adoption. They are run/maintained by Lutherans and Nuns and relatively self-sufficient. They don't have their own grocery stores but they have their own clothing stores and such for the kids.
Group Homes may vary. Group Homes that are actual houses are usually reserved for kids who have run away from home and are only going to be there for a short amount of time before being returned to their parents.
There are some that are housed "dorm style" like my mother calls it, that is to say that the "rooms" are hall-type things and look like this. There are usually ten beds on each side of the room and over each table/desk on the wall is a florescent light. The Dorm-Style rooms would house only boys or only girls in each hall. For young children (Out of their cribs of course) there would possibly be twenty bunks in a room in order to house more children. There are also Dorm-Style rooms for small children/babies that have twenty or so cribs in a room.
Foster Care: As many as the Foster Parent wishes. If they want one kid per room then there's one kid per room, if they wanna put in three bunk beds in a room so six kids can stay in there then they do it.
- Would they be split according to age? What about gender (if we were talking about a brother/sister combination)?
Group Home: Group Homes in Chicago would be more apt to keep the kids together, they really don't want the kids split up. Part of this I'm sure must be because it's meant to be long-term. Kids in groups homes are going to stay in them until they run away or until they turn eighteen and leave the system.
Group-homes are relatively co-ed as far as I know; boys and girls probably wouldn't be sharing rooms past about five-years-old or so but they'd be in the same home or in a close by home. Something such as Home A (An actual house) has five rooms with four people to a room; One and Two are 16-year-old boys, Three and Four are girls 13-17 and Room Five is the 7-11-year-old girls or something like that.
Home B (A motel that has been renovated) may have rooms 101-199 odds be the guys and 102-198 evens be the girls (That'd put them on seperate sides). In a case like Home B there'd be proably nothing but teenagers and such in the rooms and the scheduled and random bed-checks like in any place housing a large number of children.
Home C might house only girls while D houses only boys and E houses only kids up to 11-years-old or something like that.
What you have to remember is that once the boys and girls turn five or so they'd be split up into different rooms/Homes/Whatever, because that's about the time they start to realize that they're different from each other and don't all have the same parts.
Foster Care: More likely to split siblings up. Tend to ship them off to whoever wants them. Foster Parent A might not have a problem taking both boys but maybe he/she/they don't have enough room to house them both, then Linc would probably go with them because he'd be harder to place because of his age. It's really all up to the Foster Parent whether they make the kids share a room or split rooms or where/how they're housed.
The thing you have to remember in this case is that people get paid by the kid. So sadly there are a lot of people out there who will try to have the maximum amount of kids at the same time and be stingy as fuck. The Foster Parents get paid to feed and cloath the kid whether they keep them for a day a week or a month and the less money they spend getting the kids new clothes the more they have for themselves. But you must also remember that not all people are greedy like that, there are lots of people out there who will take in the maximum amount of kids because they honestly want to help as many children as they can.
- Would they be allowed to have visitors? (like Veronica for example)
Group Home: I'm not entirely sure on this one, most kids in Group Homes don't usually have many friends outside of The System and are in it because they don't have family or don't have any they want to/can be around them. In my experiance I don't know of any Group Homes that allow visitors at all. Period. End of sentence. Social Workers, Case Workers and other people like that are a completely different story.
Foster Care: It would depend on what the Foster Parents allow personally.
- Would they be allowed to visit other people?
Group Home: Not really. They are allowed overnight sometimes but only with certain rules. The person(s) in question has to have been there at least thirty days, they must be in good standing, it may only be a blood-relative they go to visit, and they must get a pass approved which must be done I think a week ahead of time and must be signed/approved by their Social Worker and/or Case Worker along with any neccesary Staff.
Foster Care: It would depend on what the Foster Parents allow personally.
- What about the father, wouldn't social services have tried to contact him after the mother's death? Would he technically automatically have gotten custody in case they managed to track him down?
First of all they don't really hunt down the Dad, there's an incredible amount of kids in The System and the government just doesn't have the time to hunt down all their relatives. What'd likely happen is that there'd be a note put on his file so that the next time he got pulled over or arrested or something the cops would just kinda say somethiing to him. Something like: "And by the way that chick you knocked up a while back kealed over and we wanted to know if you wanna take you're kids back or anything." If Dad says no then that's it, the boys are stuck in The System until they run or turn 18.