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Normalcy in Foster Care

Foster child smiling while at soccer practice with teammates.

“Normalcy” is a term you’ll hear often from your agency and caseworkers. It means the ability for children to easily participate in age-appropriate social, scholastic and enrichment activities. These activities are important because they prepare children for life as an adult.

When making decisions about whether to allow youth in your care to participate in “normalcy activities” – such as being on a sports team or spending the night at a friend’s house – foster parents must apply something called the “reasonable and prudent parent standard.” This is the “standard characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain a child’s health, safety, and best interests while at the same time encouraging the child’s emotional and developmental growth,” according to federal and state law (ACYF-CB-IM-14-03, 2014; ORC 5103.162, 2014).

All caregivers must complete training on how to apply the reasonable and prudent parent standard as part of their pre-service training. Current caregivers also can receive training, through the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program.

When applying the reasonable and prudent parent standard, you should consider these factors:

  • The child’s age, maturity and developmental level
  • Potential risk factors
  • The best interest of the child
  • Emotional and developmental growth
  • Family-like living experience
  • The child’s behavioral history

You will need to understand the normalcy policies of not only your own foster care agency, but also the county agency with custody of the youth in your home.

To support foster parents in normalcy decisions, foster care agencies should:

  • Provide training on child development
  • Be available for consultation
  • Support foster parents as professional members of the team supporting the child
  • Develop policies that are easy to understand and accessible
  • Fully inform the foster parents of the child’s history


For more information, view the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program publication Normalcy and the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard. Additionally, Ohio Revised Code 5103.162. (2014) and Ohio Revised Code 2151.315. (2014) spell out both the normalcy rights of youth in care and the limits of foster parents’ liability. 

The state of Virginia has created a comprehensive online training to help educate foster parents about their rights and responsibilities related to normalcy. As foster parents, you should always check with the agency that has custody of the child in your home regarding their views on normalcy activities.