The Department for Education (DfE) has published an independent review of the state of foster care in England, laying out 36 recommendations for the Government, local authorities and independent foster agencies in order to secure stable and loving environments for children living in foster care.
The report's 36 recommendations include:
guaranteeing foster carers are supported and a part of the decision-making process;
improvements to foster placement commission and matching;
creating greater stability and permanence for those in foster care.
DfE published a report in July 2017 that pulled together foster system evidence, which allowed them to gain insights into the current provision. Statistics published alongside the independent review offered added analysis of the foster care system, which informed the review.
The Government is due to deliver its response to the report and its recommendations in Spring 2018.Action for Children Director, John Egan, said in reponse to the review:
'[The] fostering review contains much that is good and welcome but also some recommendations that risk undermining the best interests of children in care.
It's clearly right that there should be greater involvement of foster carers in day-to-day decision making about children and we support the call for young people to be helped in having their voices heard. We are however concerned about some of the recommendations and feel they need further thought.
The role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is vital in ensuring oversight of every child’s care plan, and in independently challenging local authorities when things aren't happening as they should. To suggest "dispensing with" the role of the IRO – without any thought to a replacement – is concerning.
There is no question we should aim for permanence in the care of our children but permanence is not a byword for adoption. Fostering is a key part of the care system, and it should not be our main ambition that foster carers adopt or become special guardians. What matters in every case is the best outcome for the child and in some cases that could also include specialist residential care or reunification with the birth family.
The Government must also focus on strengthening the success of Staying Put, so foster parents who are not in a position to adopt can continue to offer a supportive home. To do this the scheme needs adequate funding.
The Government now has an opportunity to look at the review's recommendations alongside last December's comprehensive proposals from the Education Committee for how young people, carers and the system itself can be more highly valued. We simply cannot afford to lose this opportunity to turn words into action.'