What are we trying to achieve in foster care?

Join the discussion in the second Rees Centre public seminar – even if you can’t be there.

Wednesday 16 January 2013
5.00-6.30pm at 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford (Seminar Room A)

Permanence has been the dominant ‘paradigm’ in child placement practice and planning for children in care at case and policy levels in many jurisdictions. Professor Robbie Gilligan will argue that while permanence clearly has many merits as a guiding principle, it risks obscuring important aspects of what might be termed the caring agenda in the lives of foster children and in the work and purpose of the carers. Professor Gilligan will argue that we should be aiming to achieve social inclusion for young people in (and especially after) foster care. Professor Ian Sinclair will take up the challenge posed by Professor Gilligan, examining how far existing research might contribute to a theory of foster care based on Social Inclusion, and what further research might take things forward. Shirley Trundle from the Families Group in the DfE will respond giving a policy perspective.

How to participate
Post your questions here for our speakers. We will use as many of your questions as possible and feed back responses from the session through this blog post.

The Rees Centre welcomes your comments on this blog post. We reserve the right to moderate any comments. Please note that any replies to your comments will come from the Rees Centre rather than the author of the post.

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8 responses to “What are we trying to achieve in foster care?”

  1. Alex Hamill says:

    When a CYP is deemed by a local authority ‘corporate parenting team’ as in need of a ‘fresh-start’ and permanence with a foster carer in a new geography is prescribed – is the resulting social exclusion that the CYP subsequently endures by leaving behind family, friends, school, clubs etc. simply too much loss of continuity for the CYP to handle and therefore ultimately often results in unsustainable placements – let alone permanence – with negative impacts on CYP and the foster carer?

    • nikkiluke says:

      Robbie Gilligan said:

      Yes! I would argue that there’s a lot of evidence to support this – that you clearly have to make decisions on the merits of individual cases, but in broad terms, you have to build on what is strong in the situation, rather than chop off the positives and start again, which I think can happen too often. It speaks to the point Roger Bullock [Editor of Adoption and Fostering] made about squandering the strengths in relationships.

  2. Movella Laing says:

    My experience in foster care is that children have waited far too long for decisions to be made for permanency plans. My question would therefore be:-

    • nikkiluke says:

      Ian Sinclair said:

      Other things being equal, from the point of view of how well you’re going to do in care – wherever you’re going to be, whether that’s adopted or permanently fostered or whatever – the earlier the better. If you come into care earlier, whatever route you take, you tend to do better than if you come into care later. But other things clearly aren’t always equal, so it’s a kind of balance. There are two meanings here: one is, when do you decide that a child is going to be in care permanently? And the other is, when do you decide that this particular placement in care is going to be permanent? In relation to the latter, my feeling is that obviously people try and match to make sure that it’s the right thing, but that’s extraordinarily difficult to do in advance. To some extent it seems to me you’ve got to ‘suck it and see’ – you put two people together who look as if they might go, and then watch to see if they don’t. And if they don’t, to not be too afraid to move them, because if you carry on for two or three or four years, you are faced with moving a child from their long-term home, which is very unpalatable. We came across quite a number of children who said that for five years or so they’d been extremely unhappy where they were.

  3. Chris Hoyle says:

    Do you think that the government push for adoption, and as such the surge in adoption placement breakdowns will lead to children and young people who are unable to find a stable placement later in life?

    Do you think the current government agenda is dictated by the needs of the children and young people? Or is it the needs of the budget?

    • nikkiluke says:

      Thanks Chris – a very topical question. We’ll let you know what our speakers have to say on this.

      • nikkiluke says:

        Shirley Trundle said:

        There is undoubtedly a push on adoption and I think there is good evidence that there are more children who could benefit from adoption. To provide an answer to the question about whether we reach permanence decisions quickly enough, I think there’s no doubt that we are too slow in many cases to reach permanence decisions, including for children where adoption is likely to be the best answer. We know that for every month older a child is, the less the chance that they will be successfully adopted. So I don’t have any embarrassment at all about the current emphasis on adoption. There was an implication in the question that having more children adopted would lead to an increase in adoption breakdown – I think that’s just an assertion. We’re actually doing research at the moment on adoption breakdown, but the limited evidence we have suggests that the rates of adoption breakdown are quite low, and certainly much lower than some of the mythological figures out there with no evidence behind them.

  4. nikkiluke says:

    Please note that we are currently editing video footage of this event, which we will soon post online. Watch this space!

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