Background and Introduction
In the UK, on any one day, over 75,000 children are looked after by local
authorities. Numerically the most important form of provision for these
looked after children is foster care. This caters for about 60 per cent of those
looked after at any one point in time. (Wilson et al. 2004, p.1)
This book is about foster children, their placements and what makes these placements work.
Foster care itself is a highly diverse activity. Families of different culture, composition, commitment and skills deliver it to children and young people who vary widely in age, temperament, background and willingness to be fostered. The purposes for which placements are set up vary too. And so does the context–the legal basis for the placement, the attitude of the birth families, the support provided by social workers and others such as teachers to the placement, the way in which it was set up and much else besides. Against this background it is not surprising that there is uncertainty over which of the various possibly relevant factors lead, either on their own or in combination, to success.
In practice success in this field is not easy to define. Some foster placements clearly succeed: the foster children do well and are happy, they are loved in a way which does not threaten their relationships with their families, their behaviour improves, they get glowing reports from school. Other placements just as clearly fail: behaviour gets worse, the child truants from school, the carer asks for the child to be removed. Between these two extremes many placements get by or do as well as could be expected. This book sets out to contribute to the understanding of placement success by identifying from the