Moving a child from one home to another is an intervention that has serious consequences and should be done only for the most serious reasons. Ideally, every move should be made as if that move were to be the last one necessary. As has been seen, the interruption of relationships in a developing child can have both immediate and long-term detrimental consequences. If this is so, why are children ever moved?
A move may be mandated by concern for the health and safety of the child. Children must be moved when their life and health, both physical and mental, are in danger. Too often, however, children are moved for less compelling reasons, when the cost to the child from moving far outweighs any benefit that might be obtained.
Unfortunately, some child welfare workers do not recognize the importance of maintaining significant attachments, nor the harm done when children are moved from home to home. Children are sometimes moved for trivial reasons, even upon whim or to demonstrate power. A compilation of complaints by foster parents from a Midwestern state revealed the following reasons why children are moved: (Kenny, 1997, unpublished)
- Because the child ran away.
- To reunite the child with other half-siblings.
- To make room for a larger sibling group.
- To place the child in a home of the same race.
- To be on the “safe side,” protecting the foster child following uninvestigated and unsubstantiated charges of abuse by the parents or foster parents.
- To keep foster parents from becoming too attached.
- To accommodate birth parents who complained about the distance they had to travel to see their child.
- To punish foster parents who have made too many demands and are considered troublemakers.
- Because of a lack of communication between caseworkers and foster parents.