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Once a child is known to the government 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 enter foster care when removed from their homes by a child protective agency because of abuse or neglect, or both. Others 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 or because they have committed a juvenile status offense, such as running away or truancy. A small percentage of children enter care because of a disability. For many, foster care represents their only access to disability services, such as 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 2010 National Association of Counsel for Children, all rights reserved. Originally published as Badeau, Susan, Ann M. Haralambie, and 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 Donald N. Duquette and Anne M. Haralambie, 341-362. 2nd ed. Denver, CO: Bradford Publishing, 2010.

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