Sinking or swimming? Study examines the children without placement crisis in foster care

Published November 1, 2023


Jangmin Kim

Qi Zhou.

A new paper — co-authored by Jangmin Kim, PhD, assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work — explores child welfare practitioners’
experiences managing children without placement (CWOP) cases in foster care.

The researchers analyzed the practitioners’ experiences within the framework of trauma-informed care to identify common themes, challenges and implications for practice. 

The study, “Sinking or swimming: Perspectives of the children without placement crisis,” is available now in the Journal of Public Child Welfare.

Kim’s colleagues include lead author Catherine LaBrenz, Lacy Jenkins and Scott Ryan from the University of Texas at Arlington, and Mi Jin Choi and Martha S. Wildberger from Texas State University. 


Recently, there have been reports of children without placement (CWOP) in foster care, often resulting in youth sleeping in hotels or child protective service offices. This study explored perspectives of the current crisis among child welfare practitioners who managed CWOP cases.

We conducted interviews with 11 child welfare practitioners who had graduated from two universities in a Southern state. Themes aligned with the trauma-informed framework and highlighted challenges related to organizational climate, workforce development, and trauma-informed services. Implications include strategies for cross-sector collaboration, specific training, and continued research to support a healthy, trauma-informed workforce that can better meet youth needs.

Graphic with hands raised.

This research contributes to one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work tackling our nation's toughest social problems: Ensure healthy development for youth.