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Once a child is known to the child welfare agency, the child and his or her family become subject to a series of decisions made by judges, caseworkers, legal representatives, and others, all of whom have an important role to play. A child may encounter dozens of other new adults, including foster parents, counselors, and doctors. Most children (60 percent) enter foster care when removed from their homes by a child protective agency because of abuse or neglect, or both. Others (17 percent) enter care because of the absence of their parents, resulting from illness, death, disability, or other problems. Some children enter care because of delinquent behavior (10 percent) or because they have committed a juvenile status offense (5 percent), such as running away or truancy. Roughly 5 percent of children enter care because of a disability.4 For many, it represents their only access to disability services, for example, mental health care for a child with severe emotional disturbance. In these rare instances, in states that allow such placements, a child is placed in foster care voluntarily at the request of the child's parents.


Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2005 National Association of Counsel for Children, all rights reserved. Originally published as Badeau, Sue, Sarah Gesiriech, Ann M. Haralambie, Amanda George Donnelly, Donald N Duquette. "A Child's Journey Through the Child Welfare System." In Child Welfare Law and Practice: Representing Children, Parents, and State Agencies in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases, edited by Marvin Ventrell and Donald N. Duquette, 213-233. Denver, CO: Bradford Publishing, 2005.

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