Out-of-home care encompasses the placements and services provided to children and families when children must be removed from their homes because of child safety concerns, as a result of serious parent-child conflict, or to treat serious physical or behavioral health conditions which cannot be addressed within the family.
Before a decision is made to remove a child, child welfare staff must make reasonable efforts to safely maintain children with their families, including providing necessary supports and services. These services are often called family preservation or in-home services and are provided by child protective services staff, community agencies, or both. Courts must approve all decisions to remove children from their homes to ensure reasonable efforts were made.
Children in out-of-home care may live in a number of possible settings. These include kinship or relatives' homes, family foster homes, treatment foster homes, or group or residential care. Many communities use the phrase "foster care" to refer to this array of placements. In others, "foster care" refers to care in a family home, while "out-of-home care" encompasses all placement options.
While in out-of-home care, children are usually in the legal custody of the State. Shelter and daily care are provided by foster or kinship families or residential/group home staff. These caregivers generally undergo an assessment and licensing or certification process to ensure their suitability as caretakers. Foster and kinship families, if licensed, receive supportive services and monthly payments to assist them in caring for the children.
While in out-of-home care, children and their parents or other family members receive services. These are designed to provide support and safety for the child and to ameliorate the problems that led to the placement. Out-of-home care is intended to be temporary-the goal is to return children home as soon as possible or achieve permanency with another permanent family when this is not possible. Many of the services provided to children in out-of-home care and their families are targeted to achieving the goal of permanency.
Foster Care Today: Overview of Family Foster Care
Barbell & Freundlich (2005)
In Child Welfare for the Twenty-First Century: A Handbook of Practices, Policies, and Programs
Examines foster care at the start of the twenty-first century, including population trends, factors affecting the families and children served through foster care, and key aspects of practice.
Essentials of Child Welfare
Ellis, Dulmus, & Wodarski (2003)
Provides foundational information about the child welfare system, including investigation, case planning, placement, permanency, and postplacement services.
National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections
Provides training, technical assistance, and information services to State, local, and tribal child welfare agencies on safety-focused, family-centered, and community-based approaches to meet the needs of children, youth, and families.