Fostering review met by approval from campaigners

A major review of fostering and placement services announced by
the department of health has been welcomed by children’s
campaigners, writes Jonathan Pearce.

The review – unveiled in a speech by health minister
Jacqui Smith at a national Quality Protects conference in
Birmingham – will examine how local authorities recruit
foster carers, as well as the provision of rewards, training and
support. It will also look at helping councils commission and
deliver effective placements, including the contribution of
independent fostering agencies.

“Overall (the review) will build on the improvements in the
management and delivery of children’s social services that
have been put in place over the last three years of the Quality
Protects programme,” said Smith.

Entitled “Choice Protects”, it aims to provide stability for
children in foster care – about two-thirds of England’s
58,000 looked after children – as well as raise the role and
status of foster carers.

Fostering Network executive director Gerri McAndrew said:
“Fostering has always appeared to be the ‘poor
relation’ in children’s services, and we are pleased
that our calls for it to be given higher priority have been

The “Choice Protects” review will run in tandem with a review of
private fostering, which Smith announced during the committee stage
of the Adoption and Children Bill.

Smith agreed to the review in response to a proposed amendment
that would have required councils to keep a register of private
fostering arrangements. The amendment had been prompted by concerns
raised in a Baaf Adoption and Fostering report last year that
between 8,000 and 10,000 children in unregulated private foster
care were at risk of physical, social or sexual abuse, but was
withdrawn following the minister’s decision.

In the last fortnight, the DoH has begun consultation with local
government, children’s organisations and other government
departments over the nature and conduct of the review, which is
expected to report its findings to coincide with the Laming Inquiry
report into the Victoria Climbie case later this year.

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