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Revised minimum standards for foster care placements

Date:29 SEP 2009

Children's Minister Delyth Morgan has written to local authorities to look at measures to bolster support for foster carers and reminded councils of the need to give foster carers full details about the backgrounds of the children they take on.

The measures include consulting on significant revisions of the National Minimum Standards against which Ofsted inspect care settings. The government is also providing research to local authorities on how they might improve the stability of permanent placements and better structure their looked after children budgets.

Two research studies were commissioned from the Department's Adoption Research Initiative. The first looked at the different characteristics and outcomes of long-term permanent care placements. The findings suggest that by taking a child-focused approach to care planning, local authorities can improve the outcomes of the child and reduce the number of placement breakdowns.

The second, a report into adoption costs, showed that the effective use of third sector adoption agencies had a positive impact on finding suitable and timely placements at a lower cost for local authorities. The report provides new evidence for the structure of local authority budgets for children in care and for the commissioning of adoption placements.

Children's Minister Delyth Morgan said: "Research we are publishing today shows us that children in stable, long-term placements achieve much more than children who have a series of temporary placements or whose placements breakdown. We therefore need to urgently address the issue of stability in the care system, the measures we are driving forward from today aim to do just that."

The National Minimum Standards for fostering, children's homes and adoption are used to improve outcomes for looked after children, by raising standards in those services at the front line - fostering services, children's homes and adoption agencies.

The new standards will promote stable placements by setting out high expectations for the standard of care and support including educational, health and emotional needs that each setting should provide for looked after children.

The standards also set out high expectations around effective behaviour management in residential settings, alongside safeguards to ensure children do not experience bullying.

Research published earlier this month by the Fostering Network revealed that more than half of all foster carers in Britain (51 per cent) say that in the past three years they have been given inadequate information about a child in their care, which has put themselves, their own children and even the foster child at risk.

Earlier this year a teenager placed with a couple in South Wales sexually abused their children.The family were not told about his history of sexual offending even though Vale of Glamorgan Council knew about it. The council apologised and three social workers were suspended after an inquiry led by the NSPCC.

The Minister has also written to all Directors of Children's Services to reinforce messages that local authorities must ensure that foster carers have full disclosure of a child's background and experiences to help them make informed decisions about taking a child into their care and to help them provide care that meets the child's needs.

"Local authorities have a duty to both carer and child to ensure that the placement is appropriate and well managed. Fundamental to this is ensuring foster carers know as much as possible about the child they are taking into their home. We want fostercarers to be confident in their ability to support these children and they can only do that when they have the full picture of the child's background," the Minister said.