The Plan for the Child

By Nigel Lowe, Mervyn Murch and others.
Baaf Adoption and Fostering
ISBN 1 903699 07X

The research team at Cardiff University have produced another
publication which should be read by all involved in delivering
family placement services. It examines the work of social services
departments to find out why some have high rates of adoption and
others lower rates but conversely more children in long-term

The research raises many practice issues. In one local authority
all children in care up to four years of age had adoption as the
plan, whereas in another it was only a third of this age group.
They also found wide variations in whether foster carers adopted
the children living with them, and outside London a tendency for
information on ethnicity to be incomplete.

With more than 12 years’ family placement research behind
them, Lowe’s and Murch’s concerns must be given great
weight, especially their statement that “the current media and
political interest in adoption risks diverting attention from the
important fostering options”.

Equally arresting is their finding that the strength of the
system lies in the dedication and commitment of staff but they can
be hampered by inflexible management, an over-concentration on
form-filling and a lack of training for front-line staff. We have
been warned.

Jim Richards is director, Catholic Children’s
Society (Westminster).


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