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Best Practices in Foster Care and Adoption at the State and Federal Levels


In order to provide effective foster care and adoption services at both the federal and state levels one must first determine what the best evidence based practices for implementing foster care and adoption programs that serve the best interests of the child. In this case, both the state and federal government should have foster care and adoption policies that are coherent, succinct, and similar in terms of their provisions for children in care. Therefore, the State of Missouri should have guidelines for the implementation of foster care and adoption evidence based best practice that matches that of the federal government in every aspect.

Foster Care Research

The definition of best practices in relation to foster care and adoption mean that any policies, procedures, and programs should support the best possible outcomes for the child in care. Ultimately, this means that the child should become a successful adult in terms of living independently, and training for a vocation or career. This also means that the child should suffer minimum psychosocial or physical damage from their time in care that they should be psychologically stable and physically in good health. Evidence based practices for the purpose of this paper are those practices which have been implemented, tested, and found to effective in a foster care or adoption care setting.

Right to Safey

According to Skoler , one of the key best practices that should be implemented both according to Federal law and State law is the guaranteed Constitutional right to safe foster care. Skoler states that while such a Constitutional right does not currently exist the right to safe foster care and adoption practices falls under the basic rights outlined in the Constitution that guarantee the rights to liberty, equality, justice, and security for all citizens of the United States. Skoler also argues that this Constitutional right should integrate the International Declaration on the Rights of the Child. These include, the right to name and nationality, the right to social security, the right to appropriate education, training, medical, and psychological care based on need, the right to love and understanding, and the right to be protected from abuse, and neglect including, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and physical and emotional neglect. These rights are the same rights that the government should guarantee to any child regardless of care status. However, Skoler argues that in many cases the Federal and State foster care systems have failed to provide children in their care with these very basic rights. Children are often abused and neglected, historically Native American children have been removed from their homes, been denied their culture, and stripped of their nationality, foster children often grow up in homes where they are unwanted, and when they transition out of care they are left with little support or means of getting an education. Skoler further argues that if the best possible outcomes are to be achieved children in care must receive a guaranteed right to safety in the foster care or adoptive environment.

Best Possible Outcomes

A second best practice in terms of foster care and adoption should be the implementation of measures that will allow the child the best possible outcomes in terms of social, economic, educational, physical, and psychological outcomes. Antle, Christensen, Van Zyl, and Barbee suggest the use of solution based casework or SBC to develop positive outcomes in children in care. The SBC model focuses on addressing problem between the child in care and their carers as soon as situations arise. This model involves a three-step process that includes partnership with the child's foster or adoptive family, a focus on integrating the child into the everyday life of their new family, and finally, a focus on preventing problems with the child and their new family. In a study of 4,559 children in the social welfare, system who was either in foster care or up for adoption the researchers found that the SBC process was effective in helping to address critical problems in foster care. This included addressing situations of abuse and neglect in foster care settings, the demands of dealing with children in care with special needs, and in addressing the concerns of adolescents transitioning out of foster care. According to Antle et al addressing these concerns are a vital aspect in ensuring that children leave care physically and mentally health, that they build positive relationships with foster or adoptive families, and that they have the education and tools to succeed as adults.

Addressing Vulnerabilities

Leve, Harold, Chamberlain, Landsverk, Fisher, and Vostanis argue that one of the main goals of best practices in relation to foster care and adoption most specifically in relation to adoption. Leve et al argue that there are several critical areas in which children in foster care are vulnerable where currently existing policy does not cover children, or allows them to fall through the cracks in the system. The first main area is abuse and neglect. Although most states including, Missouri require that foster parents and adoptive parents have criminal background checks conducted on them this only reveals if complaints have been founded and prosecuted. Unfounded complaints to social welfare are often ignored due to the need to place a child in a home setting. A second critical issue is the overall physical, social, psychological, and intellectual development of the foster child. Due to the instability of the care environment at the federal and state levels, many children do not receive the care that they need. Level et al attribute these problems to many critical factors including, foster parents who are unprepared to deal with troubled foster children, and overworked, and burned out social workers.

Evidence Based Practice

James, Alemi, and Zepeda argue that evidence based practice is one of the most critical practices in relation to best practices in foster care and adoption. Evidence best practices are defined as being practices, which have either qualitative or quantitative evidence to support their effectiveness. For example, pre-transition programs to help adolescents leaving foster care or adoptive settings to develop the life skills that they need for independent living is evidence based practice that has proven to be successful in the social welfare setting at the state and federal levels. James, Alemi, and Zepeda suggest that evidence based practices are a necessary and vital aspect of best practices in that these practices allow for methods that have been proven successful to be implemented while discarded unproven methods that have been kept mainly due to their being "traditional".

Placement Stability

The final critical issue in relation to best practices is placement stability. Blakey et al suggest that an ideal placement will provide stability for a child in care throughout their childhood. This means that children in foster care will remain in one placement for the long term and that for children in care who are adoptable, adoption should be the ultimate goal. Blakey et al suggest that only about 40% of all states in the United States fail to meet even the most basic federal standards for stability of placement care in foster and adopted children. Missouri is currently one of the states who fails to provide placement stability. Blakey et al indicate that one of the primary reasons for this situation in Missouri is the fact that there is a shortage of social welfare in the state, which has had a significant influence on whether or not they can implement evidence based, and best practices in foster care and adoption services.


In conclusion, best practices in foster care and adoption are vital in order to ensure that the best possible outcomes are created for the child after they transition out of the foster care system or their adoptive home. These practices include, a Constitutional Right to safe foster care and adoptive settings, creating the best possible outcomes, addressing vulnerabilities in the care system, implementing evidence based practices, and placement stability. There are critical issues with implementing these best practices both in Missouri and other states in that most states have social welfare departments that are chronically underfunded and short staffed. Thus, in order to ensure that these problems are addressed and that best practices can be implemented in Missouri both in terms of state and federal best practices it is necessary to increase staffing and funding in the Missouri social welfare system.


Antle, B. F., Christensen, D. N., Van Zyl, M. A., & Barbee, A. P. . The impact of the Solution Based Casework (SBC) practice model on federal outcomes in public child welfare. Child abuse & neglect, 36(4), 342-353.

Blakey, J. M., Leathers, S. J., Lawler, M., Washington, T., Natschke, C., Strand, T., & Walton, Q. . A review of how states are addressing placement stability. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(2), 369-378.

James, S., Alemi, Q., & Zepeda, V. Effectiveness and implementation of evidence-based practices in residential care settings. Children and youth services review, 35(4), 642-656.

Leve, L. D., Harold, G. T., Chamberlain, P., Landsverk, J. A., Fisher, P. A., & Vostanis, P. . Practitioner review: children in foster careā€“vulnerabilities and evidenceā€based interventions that promote resilience processes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(12), 1197-1211.

Skoler, D. L. . A Constitutional Right to Safe Foster Care-Time for the Supreme Court to Pay Its IOU. Pepperdine Law Review, 18(2), 6.