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.