Families Over Facilities: Ending the Harmful Use of Institutions and Other Group Facilities in Child Welfare Systems​

At any given time, there are approximately 42,823 children housed in institutions and other group facilities. Institutionalizing children denies them loving homes and robs them of their childhood. 

Families over Facilities is a call to action to end the unnecessary institutionalization of children in child welfare. The report details the physical, mental and emotional harm done to children in group settings, the significant unnecessary taxpayer costs associated with the practice, and violations of children’s civil and human rights. 

The report provides both a Declaration of Urgency and an Adaptable Toolkit of practical steps state child welfare agencies, case workers, and service providers can take to end institutionalization, keep families together and children out of foster care, and when that is not possible, dramatically increase the placement of children with other family members.

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As COVID-19 continues to endanger the lives of youth and the nation reckons with the inherent racism in government systems, the burden of institutionalization falls disproportionately on Black children.  At the same time, there has been an explosion of reports of egregious abuses and dangerous conditions in group homes.

Now is the time to end the institutionalization of children once and for all and dismantle the persistent racism that exists within the youth justice and child welfare systems.

What You’ll Find in the Report

  • Hear from young adults who bravely shared their lived experiences
  • Learn how institutions and group facilities inflict harm on children and violate their rights
  • Discover strategies for child welfare agencies and advocates to adopt to end unnecessary institutionalization

Voices of the youth who lived in out-of-home foster placements

That was also the “cool down method”— someone sits on you or holds your arms down until you stop fighting. They are threatening you the whole time. I was 9 or 10 and just didn’t know how to calm myself down and didn’t understand my anger. I would get restrained all the time.”


Group homes felt like punishment for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time to the wrong people and I treated myself like someone who didn’t deserve anything good because that’s what I believed. Group homes created an environment that encouraged and normalized crime, violence, aggression, pain, and isolation. You can’t heal in group homes.”


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