Foster care reforms: Families to get clearer physical affection guidance

Foster families are to receive clearer advice on physical affection so they can feel more confident to hug and comfort the children in their care, the government has said.

Responding jointly to the recommendations of the fostering stocktake and the education select committee inquiry on foster care, the government said foster families will also be empowered to make more day-to-day decisions in the best interests of the children in their care.

This will include "simple but important things" like being able to take children to get their haircut, allowing them to go on school trips or to be able to go over to friends' houses.

The Department for Education said it will also explore ways digital technology can enhance the foster care system and consider how it could help tackle challenges, such as recruiting more families to become foster parents, and have access to training and resources to support these families.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We want every child in foster care to have a loving, stable home and trusted relationships so they can have the ‘normal' life they desperately want and experience the same opportunities as other children.

"We also want to support and empower foster parents to make the daily decisions they would for their own children, and make sure they receive the recognition they deserve for their incredible work."

In addition to clearer guidance for foster families, a new training package will be created for social workers to help more children have long-term foster placements.

The DfE will also work with a group of councils and agencies to develop best practice for foster care and reviewing guidance to make it clearer on practice issues, as well as funding new approaches to commission foster placements for children.

Click links below for related CYP Now content:

Fostering stocktake: six major recommendations for change

Children's Social Care Innovation Programme: Support for complex adolescents

Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, said: "The government's emphasis on genuine collaboration between local authorities and independent fostering providers is a breath of fresh air - and I know many of our local authority colleagues will feel the same.

"Commissioning of foster care placements can only begin to be effective with this kind of sea change in relationships between commissioners and service providers."

Rachel Dickinson, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said that while the importance of placement and social worker stability is raised a number of times in the government response, the plans outlined will not address the underlying drivers of instability including a national shortage of foster carers and of social workers.

"ADCS members also remain concerned about the significant surpluses being made by a small number of organisations from fostering. Such practices cannot be justified, and we reiterate our earlier call on government to replicate the Scottish legislation which prevents for-profit operations in this area.

"The five ambitions outlined in the response are difficult to argue with as is the focus on advocacy, on the smarter use of contact and the use of fostering as a respite option for children and families at times of crisis."

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