Key Steps in Transitioning to Family Care
A transition to family care requires time, careful planning, effective management, and thoughtful tailoring to the needs of individual children and families. It is a transformation to a new way of conducting business and interacting with a community. Transition is a collaborative process that engages children and families, residential care staff, government officials, local service providers, community members, donors, and other stakeholders.
Multiple factors determine a transition’s time frame, including the causes of family separation, ability to trace children’s families, availability of alternative family placements and support services, appropriate staffing, and funding. The process does not end with placement in families but continues with follow-up to ensure that children are safe and well cared for and that families have access to the support services they need. Although the process can sometimes take more than several years, anything worth doing for children is worth doing well. Ensuring the long-term wellbeing of children and families is at the heart of every transition process, and an important aspect of this is assessing their strengths and needs while supporting their participation in the decisions impacting their lives.
While every situation is unique and many factors will vary according to circumstances and context, transitioning from residential to family care typically includes the following steps. These steps are interrelated and do not necessarily take place linearly:
- Understanding the primary causes of child separation;
- Assessing international, national, and local contexts that inform transition to family care;
- Raising awareness about family care with key stakeholders;
- Developing a clear vision for your model of family care;
- Developing a new business plan to sustain the transition process;
- Cultivating partnerships with individuals and organizations that provide child and family support services;
- Developing an individualized care plan for each child;
- Tracing each child’s birth family to determine if reunification is possible;
- Recruiting and preparing families along the continuum of care (e.g., kinship care, foster care, adoption);
- Preparing and transitioning each child into an appropriate placement option; and
- Monitoring children and families to ensure their needs are being met.
Three core elements within any transition process are (1) gatekeeping to prevent inappropriate placement into residential care, (2) family strengthening to ensure the availability of services addressing the causes of family separation, and (3) a continuum of care that provides a range of options to meet the individual needs of children.
Transitioning to Family Care for Children: A Guidance Manual Provides practical guidance and tools for churches, faith-based organizations, donors, and others who are transitioning care for children away from residential care to care within families. Includes a section on preparing an organization for change, raising awareness to bring others along, and planning for transition. (Faith to Action Initiative)
Changing Mindsets and Practice: Engaging Christian Faith-Based Actors in Deinstitutionalisation and Child Welfare Systems Reforms Provides insight into what “deinstitutionalization” might look like and what steps and processes and people might be involved. Contains a brief overview of the technical stages, and guidance through the process of achieving buy-in. (ACCI Relief)
10 Steps Forward to Deinstitutionalization: Building Communities to Support Children’s Rights Covers an introduction to deinstitutionalization, building community awareness, understanding policy context, planning and managing goals, alternative care options, individual care of children, transitioning, building capacity, budgeting, and monitoring the process. (Terre des hommes and Hope for Himalayan Kids)
Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration Includes guidance on stages of reintegration, case management process, working with family, post-reunification support and monitoring, and reintegration within the wider continuum for child protection. (Family for Every Child)
Better Care Network Toolkit Supports practitioners/policy makers in planning for and delivering better care for children who require out of home placement. Includes practical guides and manuals on topics such as policies required to support a quality care system and practice guidance and tools for the delivery of alternative care.
Webinars & Podcasts
A Conversation with Hope and Homes for Children on Transitioning to Family Care Dr. Delia Pop with Hope and Homes for Children provides helpful information for organizations transitioning children’s care away from residential care to care within families. She provides an overview of the key concepts and steps that are important to a successful transition process. (Faith to Action Initiative)
A Conversation with Buckner International on Transitioning to Family Care Randy Daniels with Buckner International reflects on Buckner’s experience with transition to family care and lessons learned on an organizational and community-based level. (Faith to Action Initiative)
A Conversation with Family for Every Child on Reintegration: Part 1 & Part 2 Emily DeLap with Family for Every Child provides a substantial overview of the cross-cutting principles for successful reintegration and what needs to be in place for healthy reunification of children with their families.