The study highlights the role of long-term foster parents in helping to transform children’s lives

The key role of long-term foster parents in helping to transform the lives of vulnerable children into care has been highlighted in a new study published today.

Government data show that 40% of children in foster care are in long-term foster care – more than 20,000 children at the time of the study in 2019. The study was led by the Center for Children and Families Research (CRCF) at the University of East Anglia UEA), working with colleagues at the University of Manchester and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

The study examines whether and how the first regulations and guidelines for long-term foster care (Department for Education 2015) were implemented by local authorities across the country.

The new framework requires all local authorities to carry out a full assessment of the child’s current and future needs and the capacity of foster parents to meet these needs into adulthood and to provide a support package. These processes have already been established as good practice in some bodies, but the aim of the leadership was to bring all local authorities to the same high standard.

In the study, local authorities reported a positive impact of regulations and guidelines for raising the profile of long-term foster care as a legitimate option for sustainability and promoting more robust planning, matching and support procedures.

As one local government manager explained: “The regulations and guidelines have given a clear path to legitimately accepting long-term foster care as a path to permanence, but ensuring that it is not taken lightly.”

Most local government officials believe that long-term foster care is a positive option for permanence that can provide a secure family for children who have experienced trauma, separation and loss. However, there were some concerns about the availability of long-term carers, the stability of adolescent placement and the potential stigma for children growing up in care.

Professor Gillian Schofield OBE, one of the authors of the new report, said: “The introduction of these regulations and guidelines was a welcome move by the government to support long-term foster care as a positive option for sustainability in order to provide every child with love , security and stability as part of a foster family to adulthood.

“This study found that there have been benefits in implementing regulations and guidelines for long-term foster care, with good examples of local authorities working hard to make the right decision for permanence for each child and a number of positive long-term approaches … term foster care.

“However, these are difficult decisions and there were differences in the procedures and practices of local authorities. The study provided a number of recommendations for good practice in long-term foster care, which we hope will be useful in achieving stable placement and enabling children to reach their full potential. “

Long-term foster parents have a crucial role to play in improving the performance of vulnerable children by offering a stable and safe family environment while maintaining contact with the families born.

This new study shows how formal recognition of long-term foster parents and guidelines for local authorities have helped transform the culture of long-term foster care and improved care planning, evaluation, comparison and support. “

Ash Patel, Program Manager, Justice at Nuffield Foundation


University of East Anglia

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