Out-of-home care is a court-monitored process that encompasses the placements and services provided to children and families when children are removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.
Before a decision is made to remove a child, child welfare staff must make reasonable efforts to safely maintain children with their families through family preservation or in-home services that are provided by child protective services staff, community providers, or both. If reasonable efforts have been made and yet safety concerns still exist, then the court may order that a child be removed from their home and placed into what is known in many communities as “foster care.” Once removed, the shelter and daily care of children are provided by foster or kinship families or residential/group staff. These caregivers generally undergo an assessment and licensing or certification process to ensure their suitability as caregivers. While in out-of-home care, services are provided to the child and their parents to help improve the problems that led to the removal so that they may achieve family reunification or other permanency as quickly as possible.
Prioritizing the inclusion of biological parents and appropriate family in the initial placement and case-planning process once a child has been removed is crucial. Not only is the child welfare agency required to provide services to achieve family reunification—except in extreme circumstances—before pursuing any other permanency goals, but maintaining the integrity of the parent-child bond is essential to healthy child development. When it is safe to do so, parents should be encouraged to remain a vital part of their children’s lives, including attending appointments, school events, and participating in their daily care and routines. Out-of-home care encompasses the importance of family and should always operate as a support for the family rather than as a substitute for the parent.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, Overview of Out-of-home care
This is why E3 emphasizes Encourage(1), Equip(2), and Empower(3). Children need this kind of support!
Neglect has a very profound effect on children. There are some youth who end up in out-of-home care who may not have heard kind words spoken to them or received emotional support from their biological parents. Our PosiPaws service goal is to provide loving and encouraging support to these youth. PosiPaws is a program where we collect, prepare, and distribute stuffed animals for youth in need. What makes these plush, stuffed animals so very special are the dedicated volunteers who write positive, uplifting messages for the children, and attach them to the stuffed animals. There is no greater reward than to see these kids getting the plush comfort and love they were so desperately missing when they receive their stuffed animal.
In a 2010 press release from Travelodge regarding a study done on adults and stuffed animals, psychologist Corrine Sweet said cuddling teddy bears “evokes a sense of peace, security and comfort. It’s human nature to crave these feelings from childhood to adult life.”
Stuffed animals promote child development in the areas of:
This statistic should never be viewed as just a number. Each count is a precious life that has been affected by being removed from their home. E3 AZ empathizes with the children who face a lot of adversity in these situations. This is why we are doing our part to Encourage(1), Equip(2), and Empower(3) youth impacted by out-of-home care and their supporters which includes foster parents, biological and adoptive children, and any child living with a child in foster care.
Nearly 8,000 children or 55% have a case plan to return to their family, which is GOOD news! BUT even children who have a case plan still spend on average almost 30 months in out-of-home care. That’s almost THREE years away from their family!
Oftentimes, children who are removed from their homes are genuinely loved and missed by their biological parents. This is one of the reasons we provide photography services with the goal of keeping biological parent(s) updated about the child’s well-being and also to strengthen their bond. Photos could be of a school event, a birthday, or any other instance where the out-of-home care provider wants to share a memory with the biological family.
E3 AZ encourages foster parents to share photos of the children with their biological families when it is appropriate. This can be done by sharing a Lifebook with them or by sending a printed picture along with the child when they visit. It is unfortunate but, in some cases, biological parents are not allowed to visit with their children while under the care of an out-of-home care provider. In cases like these, we leave the option to share photos of the children with the parents at the discretion of the out-of-home care provider and/or the DCS caseworker.
Some children living in foster care rarely hear words of encouragement. That's devastating to their self-esteem, even at a young age. These children and their supporters need to hear these words especially while going through this difficult time. We do this through our PosiPaws program.
The You Rock program equips youth with the tools they need to thrive by encouraging them to volunteer in the community. We also equip supporters with helpful resources like workshops or motivational sessions that prepare them to effectively and lovingly support the children under their care.
In many cases, children placed in out-of-home care act out because they feel powerless. Uncertainty and instability only compound this sense of helplessness MORE. One way we empower them is through our Vision Board Sessions. These sessions help children focus on goals and the future.