17 May 2016
More children in local authority care could benefit from the stability of a permanent placement if carer adoption was encouraged and supported.
In recent years there has been increased government and media focus on the benefits of adoption for children in care who cannot return to their birth families, the importance of reducing the time children wait for a permanent placement and the need to increase the number of adoptive families available.
One option that has not had enough attention is the potential contribution foster carers could make to improving the chances of achieving adoption, particularly for children who may be seen as harder to place. While foster carer adoption has always been possible, it is an area of practice that has been a source of divergent views and controversy over the past 30 years, and only represents around 15% of adoptions in England and Wales.
There are clear benefits for a child being adopted by their foster carer, the most obvious being the continuation of relationships and attachments with the foster family. It also means fewer moves for the child, the chance to remain in the community, school or nursery they have become familiar with, and – for some – a greater likelihood of maintaining a connection with their birth family or siblings.
There are also challenges for social workers to address so they can make the best decisions for the children they are responsible for: how can confidentiality be maintained if the carers are known to the birth family or live in the same area? Should carers stop fostering other children for a period of time? What level of financial support will they need if their role is changing and how might this affect the child?
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