Every Kid Needs a Family: Safely Reducing Reliance on Institutional Care Placements for Children in the Child Welfare System


Since the codification of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 and the earlier passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, federal law and child welfare values support placing children in the least restrictive settings with proactive and effective intervention and services. In 2015, the Children’s Bureau released a brief1 about children in the child welfare system and reported that there were 402,387 children in the care of the child welfare system, and one in seven of those children was in an
institutional (non-family) placement setting. Of the 55,916 children in non-family placement, 41% had no documented clinical or behavioral need that might warrant such a placement.2 Also unsettling is that 31%
of children in non-family placement settings were children 12 and younger.3 Experts agree that the risk of clinical attachment disorders in young children who are placed in these types of settings is high.4

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