Out-of-home care is a court-monitored process that encompasses the placements and services provided to children and families when children are removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect. Before a decision is made to remove a child, child welfare staff must make reasonable efforts to safely maintain children with their families through family preservation or in-home services that are provided by child protective services staff, community providers, or both. If reasonable efforts have been made and yet safety concerns still exist, then the court may order that a child be removed from their home and placed into what is known in many communities as “foster care.” Once removed, the shelter and daily care of children are provided by foster or kinship families or residential/group staff. These caregivers generally undergo an assessment and licensing or certification process to ensure their suitability as caregivers. While in out-of-home care, services are provided to the child and their parents to help improve the problems that led to the removal so that they may achieve family reunification or other permanency as quickly as possible.
Prioritizing the inclusion of biological parents and appropriate family in the initial placement and case-planning process once a child has been removed is crucial. Not only is the child welfare agency required to provide services to achieve family reunification—except in extreme circumstances—before pursuing any other permanency goals, but maintaining the integrity of the parent-child bond is essential to healthy child development. When it is safe to do so, parents should be encouraged to remain a vital part of their children’s lives, including attending appointments, school events, and participating in their daily care and routines. Out-of-home care encompasses the importance of family and should always operate as a support for the family rather than as a substitute for the parent.
About the Children
Provides information to help the community understand the experiences of children in foster care and provides answers to frequently asked questions.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau (2018)
Offers information for children and families involved in foster care.
Child Trends Data Bank
Explains various trends of children and youth in foster care and resources for improving outcomes for these young people.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
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