A robust body of evidence shows that nurturing family environments support healthy child development. For children outside parental care, good practice dictates that whenever possible, children should be provided with alternative family care such as kinship care, foster care, or adoption.
Sometimes alternative family care arrangements are informal, such as when children are taken in by extended family members or by a community member at the request of a parent. In other cases, a formal assessment process, sometimes referred to as gatekeeping, should be conducted to assess whether reunification is possible and appropriate, and if not, what form of alternative care is best given an individual child’s particular situation. This process involves proper assessment of the child’s development, capacity, and situation and matching the placement to the child, and this applies to every decision point on the continuum of care. Gatekeeping is especially critical to preventing unnecessary or inappropriate placement in formal residential care.