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OVERVIEW REPORT ON LOCAL AUTHORITY FOSTERING SERVICES

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Foster care services are doing well but foster carers need more support and help, according to a report published t...
Foster care services are doing well but foster carers need more support and help, according to a report published today by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI).

The report - 'Local Authority Fostering Services' - is the first national inspection of local authority fostering services since the implementation of the Children Act 1989.

The report shows that the fostering service has moved away from being a service for children in long term care, who had little contact with their families, to a service for families.

Herbert Laming, chief inspector of the SSI, said:

'The welfare of children is the prime focus of the work and the wishes and feelings of children are taken into account. The report says children and parents now feel more involved in decision making and most children feel safe in their foster homes.'

The report concludes that the task of local authorities in resourcing and managing the foster care services has become more complex. This is because:

- services now provided shorter term placements and there are greater demands on resources of all types

- parents remain involved and in regular contact with their children. The emphasis has moved from fostering as a substitute parenting strategy for children and young people in long term care - during the 1980s and 1990s it has become a service for families

- the needs of children are generally more complex. The challenge of foster care is no longer confined to the needs of adolescents. Younger children, some of whom have been subject to sexual abuse, are also a significant challenge

Mr Laming added:

'But there needs to be greater emphasis on assessment and care planning. Foster carers need better information and support and there should be a greater choice of placements. The inspection showed that training for social workers in supporting foster care placements and the quality of case records of childrens' experience in foster care could be improved.'

- The inspection of fostering services provided by six local authority Social Services Departments (SSDs) took place between April and December 1994. The local authorities were: Coventry; Redbridge LBC; Hereford and Worcestershire; Sheffield; and Somerset.

- The inspections were based on draft standards and methodology which have been revised and refined. They are to be used in their revised form, in the inspections of six further social services department foster care services during the current year.

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