Overview of out of home care in the USA and Canada

Mark Courtney, Robert J. Flynn, Joël Beaupré

This article is part of a special edition of the journal Psychosocial Intervention (Volume 22 No.03 December 2013) focused on the state of child protection in a wide variety of countries with special attention to out-of-home care placements, principally family foster care and residential care, tough several aspects related to adoption were included as well.

The paper begins by suggesting that child welfare systems in North America and selected European and Scandinavian countries have converged functionally over the last two decades from a focus on child protection or family service to a more comprehensive child development orientation. The overview of the US in-care system covers the topics of mandatory reporting of child maltreatment, permanency planning, foster care funding, and decentralized service provision. It also portrays the current US foster care population and describes recent research on efforts to reduce the number of children in care, differential response, practice and policy reform, subsidized guardianship, Casey Family Programs, transitions to adulthood, and racial disparities in placements in out-of-home care.

The overview of the Canadian in-care system notes the responsibility of the 10 provinces and three northern territories for child welfare and the concomitant lack of national data on child protection or out-of-home care. Estimates of the number of children in care are presented, and a review of research describes the following topics: rates and types of maltreatment, over-representation of Aboriginal children in care, prevention of the recurrence of neglect and physical abuse, effects of placement into care, differential response, resilience, educational achievement, and transitions from care. The paper concludes by noting certain differences and similarities between the US and Canadian in-care systems.

©Psychosocial Intervention 22 (2013) 251-7 - Vol. 22 No.03