The social welfare literature -- whether embodied in the ideology of the profession, claimed in its social policy, substantiated through empirical research, or espoused in practice -- suggests that children should not be removed from their natural hones as a solution to economic woes or to the unavailability of social support services. This apparent convergence of ideology, policy and practice -- buttressed by social values which recognize the importance of family life -- would suggest that few children, if any, would enter foster care because of inadequate income or the absence of social services. Yet, in 1977, between one quarter and one half a million children in the United States are in foster care and most of them are children of the poor. While policy statements claim that substitute care should be a last resort, it is more often than not the only resource available to child welfare practitioners.

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