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The Fostering Network has welcomed the publication of a Government consultation on measures which it hopes will help fostering services recruit more people and support foster carers in providing a normal family environment for their fostered children.

Through the consultation, the Government is seeking views on measures aiming to allow foster carers to make everyday decisions about the children they look after and cut unnecessary bureaucracy in the approval process to encourage more people to come forward to foster.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “More than three-quarters of the children in care in England live with foster carers, and so ensuring that the system is working well for these children and the families that look after them is essential.

“There is a real need to make sure that foster carers are empowered to take day-to-day decisions regarding the children they foster – currently too many fostered children find themselves missing out on everyday childhood experiences. And we know that improvements must be made to the process of assessing and approving foster carers.

“The Fostering Network welcomes the proposals and encourages all those who share a desire to improve the current system to respond to the consultation and help the Government make changes that will improve the lives of children in foster care."

A new report by The Children's Society has highlighted a need for stronger statutory guidance to make sure that every child in the care system has access to vital independent advocacy.

The role of an independent advocate is to make sure that children in care have their views heard and acted upon. An advocate works directly with the child, giving them the opportunity to make their opinion known when it comes to decisions about their lives.

The report found that children and young people in care are experiencing inconsistency across England in getting advocacy help, which can have a massive impact on their lives. The problem is worst for the most vulnerable groups of children, including disabled and very young children.

The charity, which runs nine advocacy services across England, reviewed 142 cases and found that providing children with this support can lead to stronger care placements, boost educational attainment and have other enormous benefits.

The Children's Society found that just under half of cases they assessed involved children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and/or a disability. It also found that that placement, taking part in their reviews and leaving care were the issues that children and young people most frequently expressed their need for support.

The charity conducted a review of services from a practice base, looking at the services provided and how advocacy plays a crucial role in the well-being of children and young people, especially those in care who often have decisions made about their lives without being consulted. It also looks at the financial implications and how advocacy now could save local authorities money in the long-term.

Children's charity Barnardo's has commented on the recent ONS publication that shows there was an increase in the number of adoptions in 2011 compared to 2010.

The statistics show that nearly two-thirds (62%) of children adopted in England & Wales last year were aged between one and four. The 2011 figure was an increase on the previous year, when one to four-year-olds made up 58% of adoptions in England and Wales. There was also a 6% increase in the overall level of adoptions, with 4,734 in 2011 compared with 4,481 in 2010.

Barnardo’s UK Director of Strategy, Janet Grauberg, said:

“The fact that more children are being adopted and at a younger age, is very good news.

“But the increase, although heartening, is still small. We need to strive to move these children to a permanent, stable and secure family as quickly as possible, as the longer a child waits the more they suffer emotionally and the less likely they are to be adopted.

“Children who wait longest for families are siblings, disabled children, older children, and those from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. We desperately need more people to come forward to adopt children – especially for these groups.”

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