History of National Foster Care Month

Throughout its 106-year history, the Children's Bureau has worked to assist children and youth in foster care; engage youth in decisions that affect their lives; and support foster families, kinship caregivers, child welfare professionals, and others who help these children.

  • Before the creation of the Children's Bureau in 1912, child welfare and foster care were mainly in the hands of private and religious organizations.
  • In 1919, the Children's Bureau published Minimum Standards of Child Welfare, which affirmed the importance of keeping children in their own homes whenever possible and, when that was impossible, providing a "home life" with foster families.
  • In 1923, the Children's Bureau published Foster-Home Care for Dependent Children, an acknowledgment of the growing preference for foster family care over institutional care.
  • During World War II, when more than 8,000 children were evacuated from Europe to the United States, the Children's Bureau oversaw their temporary placement in U.S. foster homes.
  • The Children's Bureau published "The Rights of Foster Parents" in the May 1970 issue of its journal Children. That same year, the Children's Bureau sponsored the National Conference of Foster Parents.
  • In 1972, the Children's Bureau sponsored—and President Nixon proclaimed—National Action for Foster Children Week to raise awareness of the needs of children in foster care and recruit more foster parents. The following year, Children published "The Bill of Rights for Foster Children."
  • In 1988, President Reagan issued the first Presidential proclamation that established May as National Foster Care Month.

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National Foster Care Month Today

Today, the Children's Bureau, together with Child Welfare Information Gateway and other partners, supports National Foster Care Month through this website. Information Gateway provides access to print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, including resources that can be shared with families. Additional materials supporting the National Foster Care Month 2019 theme of foster care being a support to families rather than a substitute for birth parents can be found in Information Gateway's Reunifying Families web section. Below you can find technical assistance materials for caseworkers, including information on how the child welfare system—through family and community engagement, collaborative relationships, holistic family assessment, and targeted support services—can strengthen families, improve well-being, and promote successful reunification as its primary goal.  

Furthering the Children's Bureau's work to provide training and technical assistance, its Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative helps public child welfare agencies, Tribes, and courts enhance and mobilize the human and organizational assets necessary to meet Federal standards and requirements; improve child welfare practice and administration; and achieve safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children, youth, and families. The Collaborative comprises three Centers:

  • The Capacity Building Center for Courts focuses on building the capacity of court improvement programs to improve child welfare practice in the courts and legal community.
  • The Capacity Building Center for States helps public child welfare organizations and professionals build the capacity necessary to strengthen, implement, and sustain effective child welfare practice and achieve better outcomes for children, youth, and families.
  • The Capacity Building Center for Tribes collaborates with American Indian and Alaska Native nations to help strengthen Tribal child and family systems and services in order to nurture the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families.

The Capacity Building Center for States also offers training and technical assistance specific to supporting and reunifying families, including the following:

  • The Family Preservation and In-Home Services webpage aims to build capacity in public child welfare agencies and contracted service providers regarding their strategies and programs that support family preservation. The webpage offers links to podcasts, access to the webinar library, and a series of publications that support best practices in promoting stable families.
  • CapLEARN is an online learning experience designed to help States and territories build their systems’ capacity to achieve placement stability. You can register for a free learning experience by creating an account here.
  • Through Constituency Services the Center builds relationships and connects child welfare professionals through peer networks called constituency groups.
  • Through Tailored Services, the Center supports individual States and territories by engaging and partnering with them to assess their capacity-building needs; create plans; and deliver effective, capacity-building services.

Through these entities and more, the Children's Bureau continues to build on its more than 100 years of work to protect children and strengthen families. 

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Celebrate Children and Youth All Year Long

In addition to National Foster Care Month in May, the Children’s Bureau also supports two other special initiative months: National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and National Adoption Month in November. The focus of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in 2019 will be recognizing that supporting families in their communities is important to ensuring the safety, permanency, and well-being of our nation’s youth. The focus for National Adoption Month in 2018 was the importance of lifting up youth voices to educate communities about the need for permanent families for older youth in care. Find a wealth of information on both of these initiatives on the Information Gateway website.

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