State Child Care: Looking after Children?

State Child Care: Looking after Children?

State Child Care: Looking after Children?

State Child Care: Looking after Children?

Synopsis

This volume assesses the state of provision for looked after children in both the residential and foster care sectors. It comes at a time when these sectors, in both England and Wales, are going through a period of significant change and there is continued concern for the quality of state child care services. The book includes a comprehensive review of the history of child care including a close analysis of the impact of the Children Act 1989 and discusses concerns for the child care system. It addresses a number of specific issues, including: admission and placement into care; developments in fostering in practice; education of looked after children; leaving care; and training, support and service quality.

Excerpt

At the time of writing, state child care in England and Wales is undergoing one of its regular periods of significant change. It is a good time to be looking both backward and forward in this field. Looking backward, we can come to terms with developments in practice during the past decade. Looking forward, we can examine how the lessons of past practice can best be applied in the context of the changes that are currently taking place.

There are several factors that have prompted this period of change, but three are especially significant. the first of these is the election in May 1997 of a Labour government. Having been out of office for eighteen years, ‘New’ Labour has been highly active in demonstrating its reformist credentials in certain areas of state activity (even while accepting the broad economic philosophy and, initially, spending priorities of the previous Conservative administration). While this radicalism has been most evident in the field of constitutional reform, there are echoes of it in the field of state child care. One reason for this is the crucial location of looked after young people – and especially of care leavers – within Labour’s discourse on ‘social exclusion’. the second factor prompting this period of reform is that the spate of child care system abuse cases that were emerging as the 1989 Children Act was being implemented (see Kirkwood 1993; Levy and Kahan 1991) proved to be merely the first wave of a series of such cases. While these have mainly occurred within residential care, the potential for abuse to occur within foster care has been increasingly recognised and has prompted continued official concern regarding the general quality of child care services (SSI 1998b; Utting 1997). the third major reason for reform is more arbitrary and relates to a confluence of circumstances that includes those above. the field of child care appears to generate major revisiting (legislative or otherwise) every five to ten years. the 1989 Act has suffered from the same inevitable fate as its predecessors: over time, its virtues have become accepted or taken for granted while its defects have become more apparent. Continued poor performance in such fields as education and leaving care in particular (DoH 1998b, p.41; ssi 1997) have fuelled a developing sense that the policies stemming from the Children Act are in need of revision, up-dating and . . .

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