Almost 800,000 children lived with foster families in 2006.

©iStockphoto.com/Carmen Martínez Banús

For many people, having children is the dream of a lifetime. Sadly, not everyone can get that wish. Some have problems with infertility, while others may not find the right partner for a biological child. International adoptions have been all the rage among celebrities in the past few years (think Madonna and the Jolie-Pitts), but there's another option right here in the United States. Becoming a foster parent is a wonderful way to have the child or children you are looking for while helping people in need.

The U.S. Department of Health and Family Services Administration for Children and Families compiles statistics on the foster care system in the United States. According to its most recent official report, 510,000 children were in foster care as of Sept. 30, 2006 [source: USDHHS]. But those were just the children in foster care at the end of the federal fiscal year. In reality, almost 800,000 children were fostered at some point throughout 2006 [source: USDHHS].

Children are placed into the foster care system for a variety of reasons. They can be removed from a home if their parents or caretakers are abusive or neglectful -- whether it's physical abuse or not providing enough food. Whatever the reason, the situation isn't good. Foster parents give these children the loving and safe homes they truly deserve.

In this article, we'll discuss the requirements for becoming a foster parent. Then we'll take a look at the benefits of foster parenting and the overall process. Read on to learn the requirements for these special relationships.