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Strategies for delivering safe and effective foster care – A review of the evidence for those designing and delivering foster care programmes

The evidence presented in this report suggests that there is no one blueprint of universal elements for successful foster care programmes. Those developing and delivering foster care programmes must carefully examine their specific local context and adapt programmes accordingly.

However, there are some core components that all foster care programmes must have to ensure that they are safe and effective in meeting children’s needs.

First, a child should only ever be placed in foster care when separation from his or her family of origin is necessary and in the child’s best interests, and when foster care is deemed to be the most appropriate form of alternative care for the child. In determining whether a child should be placed in foster care as opposed to other forms of alternative care it is important to consider whether:

  • the child could be placed with kin instead;
  • the child’s needs can best be met in a family environment, or if they have such challenging behaviour or complex needs that they may need a short period of time in small-scale specialist residential care instead;
  • a child needs a temporary placement as a stepping stone to achieving reintegration or another form of longer-term care, or if adoption or another form of permanent care is the most suitable option;
  • if the foster care available is safe and well managed.

Second, it is essential that foster care provision is embedded in a wider system of child protection and care, which prioritises support to the family of origin and facilitating reintegration.

Third, high-quality, safe foster care programmes require a proper investment of resources in and consideration of the

  • recruitment, careful assessment and proper support of foster carers;
  • proper matching of children to foster carers;
  • ongoing efforts to build the capacity of foster carers;
  • proper support for children in foster care;
  • monitoring of foster care placements carefully;
  • support to children and young adults leaving foster care.

Fourth, it can often be valuable to start with smallscale foster care programmes and to then scale up, incorporating lessons learned.

Finally, some groups of children are often excluded from foster care programmes, including those with disabilities, those aged under three and children who have been living on the streets. Such children should have the same range of alternative care options as other groups and there are examples of promising practice from around the world which show the possibility of successfully.

Every child deserves the permanent care of a safe family and access to alternative care when needed. Read the full report.

 

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