Social work has long been involved in child foster care. Though its initial involvement de-emphasized the importance of infant–caregiver attachment, Bowlby’s theory of attachment is particularly relevant for child-welfare practice. This entry chronicles the history of child foster care and describes the evolution of legislation most pertinent for the provision of foster care. The characteristics of children in foster care since 2000 and the dynamic flow of children entering and exiting care are described. A brief account of foster care services and future trends in the field are highlighted.
Joyce E. Everett
Peter J. Pecora
The mission of child welfare is multifaceted and includes: (a) responding to the needs of children reported to public child-protection agencies as being abused, neglected, or at risk of child maltreatment; (b) providing children placed in out-of-home care with developmentally appropriate services; and (c) helping children find permanent homes in the least-restrictive living situations possible; and (d) providing “post-permanency” services to children so they do not return to foster care. This section describes the mission, scope, and selected issues of major child-welfare-program areas.
Mark E. Courtney
Child welfare services in the United States evolved from voluntary “child saving” efforts in the 19th century into a system of largely government-funded interventions aimed at identifying and protecting children from maltreatment, preserving the integrity of families that come to the attention of child welfare authorities, and finding permanent homes for children who cannot safely remain with their families. Since the 1970s, the federal government has played an increasing role in funding and creating the policy framework for child welfare practice. That child welfare services are disproportionately directed toward members of ethnic and racial minorities has been an enduring concern.
Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang
Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.