Report: The Pitfalls of Group Placements and Value of Prevention and Family Care

Posted October 7, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Adult woman cooks with the help of a teen.

Child wel­fare sys­tems should stop plac­ing young peo­ple in insti­tu­tion­al set­tings, such as group homes, and instead start pro­mot­ing care in lov­ing fam­i­ly envi­ron­ments, accord­ing to a two-part report pub­lished in The Lancet Psy­chi­a­try and The Lancet Child & Ado­les­cent Health.

The report, authored by 22 inter­na­tion­al experts, rec­om­mends redi­rect­ing insti­tu­tion­al fund­ing to com­mu­ni­ty- and fam­i­ly-based pro­grams. It also iden­ti­fies the chal­lenges and reper­cus­sions that kids in these place­ments expe­ri­ence, including:

  • sub­stan­tial devel­op­men­tal delays;
  • delays in phys­i­cal growth, brain growth, cog­ni­tion and atten­tion; and
  • long recov­ery periods.

This report con­firms what we already know: that chil­dren need to live with a fam­i­ly to thrive and live up to their best poten­tial,” says San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, vice pres­i­dent of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Cen­ter for Sys­tems Innovation.

The first part of the report reviews the his­tor­i­cal con­text of child wel­fare insti­tu­tions and offers glob­al exam­ples of why they are used. The sec­ond part of the report focus­es on evi­dence-based pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions that pro­mote fam­i­ly-based alter­na­tives, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic and its effect on chil­dren and families.

The report ends with a call to pro­mote pre­ven­tive approach­es and keep chil­dren with their fam­i­lies, when­ev­er pos­si­ble, or to pri­or­i­tize extend­ed kin­ship net­works as an alter­na­tive option.

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