The goal of ‘permanence’ for children separated from their birth families and in the care of the state has dominated child care policy and practice in the UK, the USA and Canada since the 1980s, with other countries such as Australia also making permanence an explicit aim. But the meanings of permanence in terms of stability, emotional security and family membership into adulthood are complex and the placements and legal status thought best able to achieve them are contested. Strategies for achieving permanence have divided policy makers in different jurisdictions and cultural contexts. In England and Wales it is accepted in policy and practice that long-term foster care is a legitimate permanence option. However, there are not the same national structures and guidance for planning and supporting long-term foster care as a permanence option that there are for the adoption of children from care. This paper discusses the development of the concept and practice of permanence in an international context and then considers how long-term foster care plays a role as a option for permanence in England and Wales. It will draw on a study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, of 230 cases in six local authorities where permanence in foster care was the care plan, using quantitative data regarding care planning pathways, but also qualitative data from 40 foster carers, 20 children and 6 social work focus groups regarding perceptions of permanence in foster care. The aim here is to consider the fit between the planning and reviewing systems designed to achieve permanence in foster care and the reality of planned permanent placements as experienced by foster children and foster carers.
- Long-term foster care
- Care planning