The continuum of care begins with the child’s birth family, which is also called the family of origin or biological family. Keeping children within their family of origin whenever safe and possible prevents the trauma of separation and a possible lifetime of disconnection from family. Strategies that strengthen the capacity of birth families to care for children—such as micro loans, mental healthcare, and medical support—are vital to preventing unnecessary separation. The causes of separation vary widely, and it is not always possible for children to remain in parental care.
Sometimes temporary residential care or foster care can serve a short-term function while issues with the child’s birth family are being addressed. When care within a child’s birth family or reuniting a child with his or her parent(s) is determined to be unsafe or not in the best interests of a child, then alternative forms of care—preferably family care—should be considered.