Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

March 2020Vol. 21, No. 2Avoiding Family Separation in Child Welfare Practice

A recent article, "Evidence Base for Avoiding Family Separation in Child Welfare Practice," focuses on research related to the impact of out-of-home placement and family separation on the well-being of children who have experienced maltreatment. 

It isolates the impacts of out-of-home care in terms of criminal behavior outcomes, mental and behavioral health, and physical health as well as whether these impacts vary by race. According to the article, children who were placed in foster care as a result of maltreatment had three times the juvenile delinquency rate and were two to three times more likely to enter the criminal justice system as adults than those who remained at home. Also, children who entered out-of-home care demonstrated a greater increase in problem behaviors from the time they were placed in care to the time of exit compared with the rates of problem behaviors during the same time period for maltreated children who stayed at home. There is also evidence that children who enter care have a 1.5 times higher risk of mortality between the ages of 20 and 56 than those who had experienced maltreatment but remained at home.

Kinship care versus foster care can also impact the well-being of children removed from their homes. According to the article, children placed with relatives experience fewer disruptions and foster care placements as well as fewer emotional, behavioral, and physical impacts than children placed with nonrelative caregivers. Additionally, parents were less likely to appeal an out-of-home placement if their children were placed with relatives, and children were able to spend more time with their parents if they were being cared for by kin.

The authors conclude that out-of-home care can do more harm than good in terms of children's well-being outcomes and that finding alternatives to nonrelative placements can help mitigate the trauma of being placed in foster care.

To read the article, visit