Making decisions about long-term foster family care as a permanence plan in England: An investigation of the implementation of the first government regulations and guidance for long-term foster care

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Long-term foster family care has been included as a permanence option in policy in England since the 1980s, however it was not until 2015 that it was defined in government regulations and guidance, with a required practice framework for local authorities, including reporting placement numbers annually to the government. This was intended to give long-term foster care a more formal status as a permanence option, ensure high standards of practice and promote positive outcomes for children.

The key research questions were to identify the profiles and pathways of children in long-term foster care and (the focus of this article) to investigate the impact of the regulations and guidance on procedure and practice in local authorities. The research design used quantitative and qualitative methods: analysis of administrative data; a national survey of local authorities; and interviews with 43 managers in a sample of 30 local authorities.

The survey and interview data suggested that the regulations and guidance had had a positive impact by raising the profile of long-term foster care and supporting improved procedures. But there were varying patterns of implementation and significant differences in rates of long-term foster care, which did not relate to differences in populations between local authorities. Government support for greater consistency in implementing the long-term foster care regulations and guidance is clearly needed.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationAdoption and Fostering
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Feb 2024


  • Foster Care
  • Permanency planning
  • Long-term foster care
  • care-planning
  • Children in care
  • looked-after children

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