The continuum of care describes a range of alternative care options for children who have been separated from parental care. In keeping with evidence-based guidance from around the world, the continuum places highest priority on care within families. This includes reunification with birth parent(s), placement with a relative (kinship care), foster care, and adoption.
The continuum recognizes the role that temporary residential care and small group homes can play in the spectrum of options to meet individual situations and needs. Large-scale institutions, however, are not included as a viable option, as research has shown they fail to provide the individualized care and relationships essential to healthy development.
Important principles within the continuum of care include:
- The importance of family in the life of a child.
- Gatekeeping to assess each child’s needs and circumstances (including options for family care) and to prevent unnecessary or long-term placement in formal residential care.
- Family-strengthening and support to address causes of separation.
- Engaging children in developmentally appropriate ways in the decisions impacting their lives.
- Permanency to establish family connections and placement options to provide a lifetime of commitment, continuity of care, and a legal and social status.