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May 2016Vol. 17, No. 3Promoting Normalcy for Youth in Care

Having normal and healthy life experiences and milestones, such as forming positive relationships and participating in positive activities, are important for young people's successful development into adulthood. For youth in foster care, it can often be difficult to have normal life experiences in the way their peers not in care may have. Youth in care may not have supportive relationships with parents, siblings, or other family members, and requirements and restrictions from the child welfare system may make it difficult for them to participate in extracurricular and social activities, such as sleepovers and participation in afterschool teams. A recent brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores how child welfare can help promote normalcy for youth in care and shares insights from youth in and formerly in care.

The brief focuses on an indepth discussion of what normalcy means and how it can impact youth development. Topics addressed include the following:

  • The importance of normalcy to the overall healthy development of youth in foster care
  • How youth view normalcy and foster care (what they wish for, the barriers they face, and their recommendations)
  • Suggestions for how to leverage the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (Strengthening Families Act) to help improve child welfare systems and create a more supportive and normal environment for youth
  • Strategies from the field that can serve as examples

The brief includes information on the Strengthening Families Act and its provisions meant to promote the following normalcy components for youth in care:

  • Ensuring more age-appropriate or normal growing-up experiences for young people in foster care, including the implementation of the "reasonable and prudent parent" standard that allows caregivers to make more daily decisions for youth in their care 
  • Eliminating Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for children under age 16 and adding requirements if older youth have a permanency goal of APPLA
  • Engaging all young people in their case planning beginning at age 14

Also included are a "Normalcy Activity Checklist for Young People in Foster Care" and appendices featuring excerpts from three States' normalcy guidelines. Access the brief, What Young People Need to Thrive: Leveraging the Strengthening Families Act to Promote Normalcy, on the Annie E. Casey website at


Related Item

Child Welfare Information Gateway's new Normalcy for Youth In Foster Care webpage is now live. Find resources on how to support and promote typical childhood experiences for youth in foster care at