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8.1 Principles Underpinning Fostering Policy and Procedure

Overarching Principles

  1. The primary responsibility for the upbringing of children rests with their parents: the local authority provides help to parents to meet that responsibility, and the fostering service is part of that help;
  2. Services to families in need of help should be arranged in a voluntary partnership with the parents. In the fostering service, this means maintaining close contact so that children can continue their relationships with their families, and where appropriate be reunited with them as soon as possible;
  3. The court may give the local authority parental powers over and responsibility for a child. Where the child is then placed with foster carers, knowledge of, and/or contact with the family will continue to be part of the plan for the child.

Operational Principles

  1. Children, young people, their parents and foster carers should all be considered as individuals with particular needs and potentialities;
  2. Children in foster care deserve to be treated as a good parent would treat their own children and to have the opportunity for as full an experience of family life and childhood as possible without unnecessary restrictions;
  3. The central importance of the child's relationship with their foster carer should be acknowledged and foster carers should be recognised as a core member of the team around the child;
  4. Children are entitled to protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation;
  5. A child's age, sex, health, personality, ethnicity, culture and life experiences are all relevant to any consideration of needs and vulnerability and have to be taken into account when planning or providing help. In the fostering service this should influence decisions about matching with and support to foster carers;

    Children are able to exercise choice and independence over matters such as food and clothing, within reasonable limits, and their care should promote all aspects of their individual identity;
  6. There are unique advantages for children in experiencing normal family life in their own birth families and every effort should be made to preserve the child's home and family links;
  7. The development of a working partnership with parents is usually the most effective route to providing supplementary or substitute care for their children;
  8. Parents should be expected and enabled to retain their responsibilities and to remain as closely involved as is consistent with their child's welfare, even if that child cannot live at home either temporarily or permanently;
  9. Wider families matter as well as parents, especially siblings and grandparents, and the maintenance of such relationships will be promoted where appropriate;
  10. Continuity of relationships is important and attachments should be respected, sustained and developed. This is also applies when children move from one foster home to another, or to an adoptive home;
  11. Time is a crucial element in the lives of children, and it should be reckoned in days and months rather than years;
  12. Account will be taken of children's wishes and feelings both in the courts and in any decisions affecting their lives. This duty applies especially if the children are looked after by the local authority;
  13. The significance of contact for looked after children, and of maintaining relationships with birth parents and the wider family, including siblings, half- siblings and grandparents, is recognised as is the foster carer's role in this. Principles of agency responsibilities for fostering services;
  14. Foster carers have a right to full information about the child;
  15. It is essential that foster carers receive relevant support services and development opportunities in order to provide the best care for the children;
  16. Appropriate training should be provided for foster carers;
  17. There should be machinery for resolving differences of view or minor disputes;
  18. Agencies have a responsibility to support placements which they have made;
  19. Co-operation between organisations, departments and individuals is crucial in the provision of protection for vulnerable children, and also in ensuring proper use of available resources;
  20. Foster homes should be reviewed at regular and suitable intervals.

    (Adapted from The Care of Children - Principles and Practice in Regulations and Guidance HMSO1990, and The Children Act Now – Messages from Research, The Stationery Office, 2001; see also UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1991).