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Intern Blog Post: The Evolution of and Influences on Congregate Care


Congregate care in the United States has dramatically evolved from the 1800s to now. Now that the  Family First Prevention Services Act has passed and the Family First Transition and Support Act is in place, we are taking the next steps to reduce and limit the use of congregate care for youth in foster care. 

Prior to the 1800s, there was no structured foster care system. Some children lost their parents during epidemics, others were displaced due to poverty or substance abuse. At this time, children were placed with family or friends, with no formal state or court intervention. With an influx of immigrants and a growing population of displaced children, orphanages began to be established in order to fulfill the need. 

Orphanages were often overcrowded, underfunded, lacking proper staff, structure, and resources to adequately care for this vulnerable population of children. Luckily, Charles Brace, who believed that children are better off in families opposed to orphanages and congregate care, founded the ‘Children's Aid Society’ in the mid-1800s. This led to the idea of the ‘Orphan Train’, where homeless children would be sent out west on the railways to then be chosen by pre-approved families. This was the first idea of ‘placing out’, which serves as the basis of today’s foster care system.

The now passed Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) aims to keep children at risk of entering foster care with their families or with a kinship caregiver. The act reforms the child welfare system by providing access to federal funds and reimbursements under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, for services like in-home parental training, mental health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment services. As long as children are in safe conditions, the FFPSA aims to keep children with their families and out of foster care. 

Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act congregate care is now only supposed to be used as a temporary placement, while transitioning to more permanent solutions, like foster homes, helping youth who are already in foster care by incentivizing states to reduce and limit the use of congregate care as placement. The FFPSA ensures that adoption agencies have access to records, background checks, and information needed to ensure foster care homes will be a safe and stable placement. Child stability is incredibly important and the FFPSA addresses that importance by seeking out stable homes to reduce the amount of placements for a child. 

Foster care has come a long way in recent years. Voice For Adoption agrees that children are better off in families and supports efforts made to increase accessibility to post-adoptive services. Congregate care has shrunk a significant amount since the 1800s and we hope to eliminate congregate care as a form of placement. 

By Reagan Henry 

Published 12/4/19









Header https://youthlaw.org/issues/foster-care/

In text https://tetonyouthandfamilyservices.org/donations/foster-care-donation/