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Alternative Care

When children are not safe, and are not being cared for, a social worker needs to make sure that they find a safe place for them.

When grown-ups go through bad times, they may find it very hard and stressful.  They can get angry and sometimes behave in scary ways towards the people they love. This does not always mean they are bad – just that they might need some help in trying to sort out their problems. If the children in the family are not safe because of this (see child abuse, substance abuse, and domestic violence), a social worker might need to get involved to help. The children might need to stay somewhere else until the parents or caregivers have been helped.

Children who have no parents or caregivers, children who have been abandoned, and children who are lost also need a home, and to be cared for.

In some situations, a child might have a problem where their parents are not able to manage their behaviour. Sometimes these children are placed in alternative care until the child and their family can be helped with the problem.

When a child needs care and protection, he or she may be placed in:

  • temporary safe care (not forever)
  • foster care
  • a Child and Youth Care Centre (children’s home)

Adoption is when a child is placed with a family forever.  The Children’s Act says that all children need to be well looked after.

This means that the place of care

  • should be safe and clean with enough space, and all the things a child needs
  • should have clean toilets
  • that harmful things are kept out of the way
  • that there is clean food and drinking water
  • that if you get sick you will have proper care

Click on this link, the booklet will explain much more about alternative care.

Some tips for being in alternative care

Being in care can be a big change and it’s important that you get support to help you with your feelings. There are people you can talk to – either in the children’s home, foster family, or you can try calling your social worker. Being in care is supposed to be a safe environment for you to live, so if you are unhappy it’s important to talk to someone about this. You can even call Childline if you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling or being treated.


  • It’s normal to feel scared, sad, nervous, worried – and a whole lot of big feelings
  • Ask for support and help when you need it
  • Ask questions about what you are not sure about
  • There will be a social worker in charge of your placement – ask if you can call her/him if you need to
  • Ask how things work where you are staying – where things are, what are the rules, who does what chores, and so on
  • Try to spend time with the children and adults where you are staying – talking, playing, doing things together can help you feel less alone and scared

Remember that Childline is always there for you if you need to talk.

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