One of the greatest contributors to vulnerability of children around the world is separation from the love, care, and protection of their families. Separation from parental care may occur for many reasons. Poverty and the lack of access to basic services are a primary cause of loss of parental care around the world. Children are also separated from parental care due to abuse, neglect, disease, disabilities, orphanhood, and emergencies such as natural disasters and armed conflict. Family-strengthening strategies such as livelihood and material support, medical care, and other family services can help prevent unnecessary separation.
When a child is identified as at risk of separation, an assessment should be conducted to determine what the child’s needs are and the least invasive form of support that can be offered. This type of gatekeeping can prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the family.
Once a child has been separated from parental care, another form of gatekeeping must be in place to assess the cause of separation and determine the best options for the child. Reunification should be considered first. If this is not in the best interests of the child, the range of alternative family care options includes kinship care, foster care, and adoption. Short-term residential care may sometimes be in the best interests of the child to meet special needs or for the purpose of respite, resulting in a temporary separation that supports family preservation in the longer term.