Although all countries consider parents to be responsible for the welfare of their children, they also have legislation enabling the State to remove children who appear to be in danger, physically, morally, or intellectually, due to the parents' conduct. Once it has become necessary for the child to live apart from his parents, the treatment which is offered varies widely: countries may rely entirely on residential care, almost entirely on fostering, or on mixture of both. Placement in foster homes and the running of residential institutions may be either in the hands mainly of voluntary bodies, almost entirely a matter for the state, or a mixture of both. Deficiencies of the foster care system include: unnecessary state intervention in family life; concentration of work on ensuring the fairness of proceedings, expanding the availability of services to unnecessary and lengthy foster care; inappropriate placements and abusive treatment; lack of accountability of public agencies responsible for children in out-of-home placements; lack of representation for parents in cases where the state attempts to take away their children based on allegations of abuse or neglect. Comprehensive emergency services for abused and neglected children exist in only a few communities, and services for families are rarely available to prevent foster care placement or to facilitate family reunification.
Persons or institutions which assume the guardianship or custody of minors in this way receive assistance but are also subject to the supervision of the child welfare and assistance services.
In 1970 there were 27,841 children in state custody in Austria (with 73% in foster homes and 27% in institutional care); approximately 25,000 in the Netherlands (52% in foster homes and 48% in institutions); and 62,206 in the UK (50% in foster homes and 50% in institutions).