New fostering regulations in England stipulate that foster carers must be seen as core members of the child care team, with the authority to make more everyday decisions on behalf of the children in their care.
The improved status for foster carers is part of a raft of changes being introduced in the National Minimum Standards, Fostering Services Regulations and Statutory Guidance which come into effect in England today.
Foster carers must now be acknowledged as having a vital contribution to make in planning and decision making, as well as looking after a child. As such, they should no longer have to get unnecessary consent for children to get their haircut, go on a school trips or have sleepovers with friends.
The Fostering Network has welcomed the changes. Its chief executive Robert Tapsfield said: "The new regulations, guidance and standards are really good news and should be welcomed by everyone involved in fostering. The improved status of foster carers and the greater focus on the needs of the child are important and should help improve the quality of care.
"It was particularly pleasing to see the Government included many of the changes that we recommended. However, while we can feel proud of what we have achieved, the really hard work starts now. We all need to work together to make sure the changes become practice and fostered children can receive the best possible care."
There are more than 47,000 children living with 37,000 foster families every day in England. The Fostering Network estimates that there is a shortage of 8,200 foster families.