Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Title

Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago

Publication Date



This paper presents an analysis of the current situation in child welfare–the explosion of foster care caseloads, the proliferation of family preservation programs, and the principles underlying these approaches–and suggests new ways of thinking about reform of the child welfare system.

We begin with a review of the increase in out-of-home care. We then tum to an analysis of the three basic principles underlying the current child welfare system: permanency, least restrictive alternative, and reasonable efforts. We devote a major part of the paper to the family preservation programs that embody these principles. We describe what we perceive to be certain flaws in these principles and suggest an alternative set of principles to serve as the basis for future reforms. We argue that the sharp demarcation between in-home and out-of-home services is inappropriate and constrains the development of effective responses to abuse and neglect. The paper concludes with a set of specific actions we believe should be taken and with recommendations as to research that should be undertaken.

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