Juvenile Law Center

Child Welfare and Foster Care

Normalcy: Providing Age and Developmentally Appropriate Services

While there is no single “normal” childhood experience, “normalcy” refers to the age- and developmentally-appropriate activities, experiences, and opportunities that comprise the daily lives of children and youth. Most importantly, normalcy means that youth grow up in the most family-like setting possible.

Normalcy for youth also can include participation in sports, organized teams or clubs; artistic endeavors such as choir and dance classes; community activities and volunteering; and social activities such as spending time with friends, sleep-overs, and travel. Youth in foster care often miss out on opportunities to build strong relationships with peers and supportive adults, to develop critical life and social skills, or to learn to manage increasing responsibility and independence.

There is general agreement that child welfare agencies and caregivers must facilitate the age-appropriate experiences that all youth need to successfully mature into adults. On September 29, 2014, the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) was signed into law. The Act includes a section devoted to “Supporting Normalcy for Children in Foster Care.”1 This section requires child welfare agencies and caregivers to affirmatively promote youths’ access to age-appropriate activities and empowers caregivers to give youth permission to participate in activities based on the reasonable and prudent parent standard. The law also promotes “normalcy” by expanding the current obligation to include youth in case planning and requiring the court to play an active role in ensuring that youth experience normalcy.2

To ensure that youth in substitute care experience “normalcy,” Juvenile Law Center is:

  • Drafting model “normalcy” legislation that ensures comprehensive implementation of H.R. 4980, including rigorous court oversight and youth grievance procedures, and working with states to enact the model legislation;
  • Working with states to develop an age-appropriate continuum of the most family-like living arrangements for older youth and young adults in the child welfare and justice systems; 
  • Promoting policies which ensure that efforts to secure legal and relationship permanency are provided to older youth and young adults; and
  • Promoting youth input in the development of programs and policies that are also trauma-informed.



1 P.L. 113-183, Section 111, 112.
2 P.L. 113-183 at Section 113.


Last updated: 2/10/2015


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