Child Protective Services frequently use agreements with families to temporarily place children outside the home or require supervision and services. These arrangements have become known as “hidden foster care” because they lack judicial oversight and key due process protections.

Key points

  • Hidden foster care is intended to prevent foster care entry, but it has come under scrutiny because it lacks basic procedural guardrails and independent judicial oversight.
  • Critics of hidden foster care argue that CPS investigators frequently use coercive practices to induce families to agree to “voluntary” placement of their children outside the home.
  • It is estimated that hidden foster care is at least equivalent in size to traditional foster care, but a lack of public data makes it difficult to ascertain its true scope.
  • Recent high-profile lawsuits have highlighted abuses associated with hidden foster care and its potential to undermine the constitutional rights of families.