Short-Term Care, Small Group Homes, and Rehabilitative Care

Given the unique nature of each child’s situation, temporary, short-term care in group homes, shelters, or other forms of residential care are included in the continuum of care. Short-term residential care can vary widely from basic respite care to more targeted therapeutic or rehabilitative services for children and families in crisis. Types of residential care include:

  • Small group homes that offer formal residential care in groups of 5 to 14 children under the care of consistent live-in care providers;
  • Group homes for youth who have left long-term residential care and need support transitioning to independent living;
  • Safe houses or shelters for especially vulnerable children who require protection for a period of time;
  • Respite care services to provide foster and adoptive families with a brief break in caring for children, especially those with special needs; and
  • Temporary care when family placement has been arranged but the family needs time to prepare.

Ideally, these options are temporary and transitional, ultimately leading to family care or, in the case of older youth, supported independent living. Proper assessment, gatekeeping, and child-centered decision-making processes are of utmost important when determining whether a child should be placed in a group care setting, as well as to prevent unnecessary long-term placement.

When a family is in crisis and separation from parents has occurred or is at risk of occurring, temporary residential care can provide services that evaluate and help address the immediate needs of the child and family, providing a rehabilitative framework for permanency planning through the possibility of reunification, or when this is not possible, supporting a child’s transition to alternative family care.

Short-term care can also provide physical, psychosocial, and other holistic support for children with special needs, children living on the streets, children involved in armed conflict or sex trafficking, or children and families in emergency contexts, such as natural disasters. Parents may use short-term residential care to meet special needs or for the purpose of respite, resulting in a temporary separation that supports family preservation in the longer term.

While transitioning to family care is the ideal, in some cases high-quality “family style” small group homes with consistent caregivers who serve as “house parents” may be determined to be the best possible option for longer-term placements. While this is a better option than larger institutional care (which is not included in the continuum of care), every effort should be made to find permanent families for children before this option is considered.

Scaling Down: Reducing, Reshaping and Improving Residential Care Around the World Examines the role of small group homes and children’s villages in the continuum of care options; calls for improvements in the quality of any residential care that continues to be used, identifying key elements of high-quality care; and outlines strategies for reducing reliance on residential care. (Family for Every Child)

National Standards for Best Practices in Charitable Children’s Institutions Provides comprehensive guidance to help institutions determine which children need to be in their care, how to provide adequate care and protection, and how to plan getting children back to their families and communities. Includes guidance on individual care planning, and special topics such as children with disabilities. Includes forms and tools for assessment and care planning. (Republic of Kenya)

Early Childhood Development for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: Key Considerations Provides an overview of critical Early Childhood Development (ECD) elements and existing evidence for program managers who are interested in implementing ECD programs or incorporating ECD elements within existing programs to support OVC. Includes examples of promising ECD interventions that either target or offer relevant models for OVC programs. (USAID and AIDSTAR-One)

Minimum Standards of Care for Child Care Facilities Zambia Contains a set of regulations and procedures that the Zambian Government has established as the “Minimum Standards of Care for Child Care Facilities”. (Republic of Zambia)

The Children (Approved Homes) Rules Outlines statutory rules from Uganda on care homes for children, including the purpose of such homes, the application process for approval, management, record keeping, and children’s removal from homes. Includes forms used for application, child care records, and staff codes of conduct. (Alternative Care for Children in Uganda)


Sri Lanka: Lakshan’s Story Follows the story of a young boy who through a very traumatic event lost his father at a young age. Through the Home of Hope, run by ACCI field worker Alison Atkinson, Lakshan is being supported to return to school, and most importantly to return to living with his mother and sister, supported in their community. (ACCI Relief International)

Interview with Ou Features an interview with Ou as she shares her experience growing up in residential care in Cambodia. (ACCI Relief)