Transitioning from residential care to family care requires careful planning, time, and expertise. Gatekeeping is crucial to determining safe and appropriate options that are in the best interests of each child. It begins with the assessment of a child’s individual needs, circumstances, and family care options, and often includes a period of monitoring and follow-up, as well as provision of a range of family-strengthening services, to ensure a safe and stable transition. Both the child’s and the family’s participation are important to understanding the unique circumstances and concerns that can inform each decision and step in the process.
Permanency planning is critical to reconnect children in residential care with their families, or whenever possible, to place a child within a permanent family with a relative who obtains custody, through guardianship or adoption.
While family care is the goal for children of all ages, research has shown that institutional care can be especially detrimental to the development of infants and young children. For this reason, transitioning to family care is especially important at this early stage in life. This fall, Faith to Action will release a Transitioning Care Guidance Manual, a resource for faith-based organizations seeking to transition their residential care ministries to support family-based care.
Youth Transitioning out of Care
For older youth who have lived in larger-scale orphanages and even smaller group homes, especially for long periods of time, the issue of “graduating” from residential care to independent life in the community can be a huge challenge. In these settings, youth can receive independent living skills training, education and vocational training, mentoring, and apprenticeship opportunities in the community. Local churches can also play a key role in this process through offering spiritual support and a sense of community, and through opportunities to build lasting, caring relationships with adults who have the youth’s best interests at heart.