A Framework for Understanding Family Care
The importance of family care to a child’s well-being and healthy development is evidenced by an extensive base of research conducted around the world, as well as by biblically based principles. A family-based model of care places priority on preventing the unnecessary separation of children from families and on placing children who have been separated (and typically are living in residential care) into birth, foster, or adoptive families. Ensuring that children and families receive support services to address their needs is an important part of the model.
Family-based care includes three core elements, each of which is explored in greater depth in other sections of this Tool Kit:
- Gatekeeping: The formal process of assessment and decision making to determine if a child needs to be separated from his or her family, and if so, what placement will best match his or her individual circumstances and needs. It prioritizes family preservation and alternative family care and is used to prevent the inappropriate placement of children into residential care. For children transitioning out of residential care, gatekeeping procedures are used to determine the best placement option.
- Family Strengthening: Programs and services that help prevent separation by equipping birth, foster, and adoptive families with the resources they need for children to thrive. These include education, health, and economic services such as microloans and livelihood support; parent education and support groups; early childhood programs and daycare; respite care; and special needs services.
- Continuum of Care: A range of care options that are carefully matched to each child’s best interests, including reintegration into a child’s birth family, care within a child’s extended family or kinship care, foster care, and adoption. While priority is given to safe and permanent family care, supported independent living, smaller group homes, and temporary transitional residential care may also be included in the continuum of care.
As children are moved from residential care to family care, the key steps in a transition to family care incorporate these three core elements, with each step and element shaping and informing the others.