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Home First: Stability and Opportunity in Out-of-Home Care


In this report, the concept of “Home First” is introduced for those children who require long-term, non-kin placements. The term “Home First” connotes a placement engendering stability and continuity; this concept is introduced in conjunction with an evaluation of the historical, theoretical, and empirical evidence surrounding different forms of out-of-home placement, including group-care placements and foster family care. In light of these observations and studies, this report will argue that stability is a major factor, perhaps a necessary if not a sufficient condition, in successful child development. It will argue for the initiation of a new focus on the creation of long-term positive and stable residential placements within the out-of-home care system and show that such placements can and have contributed to the development of healthy, happy, and successful adulthoods. This report offers a bio-psycho-social perspective on child development in out-of-home care. It provides a brief overview of the multiple bio-psycho-social theoretical perspectives that inform us on the necessary role of stability in growth and development and the contribution of instability to dysfunction. This report considers stability in out-of-home care in relation to its associated outcomes and those factors believed to enhance or detract from these outcomes. It reviews the history of substitutive care provision for children and youth and the role of the “stability objective” in that history. Finally, it looks at how child welfare system priorities have influenced stability, and it offers some suggestions for ensuring more stable growth and development in child placement provision.

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