Where Can Family Law Improve On Long Term Fostering?
Do you know the difference between adoption and long-term fostering? It’s simple, yet creates a substantial difference from a legal standpoint. Not all children who are living away permanently from their birth families want to be adopted. In such case, they go into long-term foster care until they’re adults. Basically, foster parents do not have the same rights as adoptive parents, with the latter getting exclusive parental rights to the child.
What’s more, long-term fostering allows the child or young person to maintain contact with their birth family, if they chose to do so.
Fixing the current legal shortcomings
As of now, long-term fostering does not afford the same rights as adoption and special guardianship orders when it comes to possible permanence provisions for children in care. This is why The Fostering Network is calling for an amendment of clause 8 of the Children and Social Work Bill. As the Network said on its website, it is “concerned that (the bill) has been introduced in the absence of a wider strategy on children in care and care leavers.” The Bill is due to enter Report Stage in the House of Lords in October, but the Network is calling for supporters to get foster parenting on equal footing with adoption. In their own words, “while the clause specifically mentions adoption as a permanence option, it does not explicitly include long-term foster care which will, for the majority of children, be the best possible permanence option. We are calling for an amendment to the clause to include long-term fostering, for which there is now a legal definition.”
This is what Kevin Williams, the Network’s chief executive, has to say on the subject:
“We are particularly concerned with the lack of recognition of long-term foster care as a valid permanence option, especially in regards to clause 8 of the Bill. We believe the Bill provides an opportunity to improve outcomes for looked after children, and we welcome the intention of clause 8 to ensure that the long-term needs of the child are looked at in order to develop a plan that will assess and meet their current and future needs. However, we want to ensure that all permanence options benefit from this clause. Therefore all options, including long-term fostering, should be written explicitly into the Bill. We believe that it is in the child’s best interests to set out permanence options clearly and without prejudice to one another in the Bill. Clarity in the eventual law is essential to avoid some options being seen as more important than others in a ‘hierarchy of care’. Currently three quarters of looked after children are fostered and therefore any change to improve the outcomes for children in care, such as this Bill, must include a focus on foster care.”
To find out more about the call for amendment or join the cause, visit The Fostering Network’s website here.