Safeguarding Children living with Foster Carers, Adopters and Special Guardians: A guide to reflective practice

Safeguarding Children living with Foster Carers, Adopters and Special Guardians: A guide to reflective practice


Case reviews have played a critical role in helping organisations to improve the safeguarding of children. Where a child has died or come to serious harm, and abuse or neglect is known or suspected, local case reviews in the UK over the past 30 years have provided useful explanations that can contribute to learning and change.

This companion guide draws upon information in the associated Good Practice Guide, Safeguarding Children living with Foster Carers, Adopters and Special Guardians: Learning from case reviews 2007–2019. The Good Practice Guide details the results of a UK-wide study of 52 case reviews concerning 98 children who had died or experienced serious harm while living with foster carers, adopters or special guardians. The study is the first to focus exclusively on cases of children in alternative family care, and shines a spotlight on those issues that are particular to these children – the selection and assessment of their carers; the support both children and carers receive; and the supervision and management of such arrangements. It identifies a series of relevant and recurring themes relating to professional culture, systems and practice that can hinder practitioners and organisations from safeguarding children effectively.

Who is this book for?

This is a vital resource for social work practitioners and managers, panel members, reviewing officers, and health professionals.

What you will find in this book

This companion guide is designed to make the knowledge from the good practice guide study more readily accessible to those in practice. It summarises the research and examines the main themes emerging from the main study. Within each theme, a series of questions for practitioners encourage reflection and prompt, practical actions, with the aim of reducing the risk to children of experiencing serious harm and death.

This companion guide is not a comprehensive set of practice guidelines or a replacement for professional judgements, but has been developed with the knowledge from the study to assist the far-reaching judgements professionals are required to make.

Read the contents page and introduction

About the authors

Dr Hedy Cleaver is an Emeritus Professor at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Her experience as a social worker and child psychologist informs her research on vulnerable children and their families and the impact of professional interventions. Most recently, she was part of the research team responsible for the last triennial review of serious case reviews (Brandon et al, 2020). The guiding principle underpinning her work is a desire to improve the quality of life for children living in circumstances that place them at risk of abuse and neglect. The findings from her research have had an identifiable impact on policy and practice in the UK in respect to children and families throughout the last 30 years.

Wendy Rose OBE held children’s policy responsibilities at the Department of Health as Assistant Chief Inspector, following social work and senior management experience in the NHS and local authority. At the Open University as a Senior Research Fellow, she worked on research and development projects. During this time, she acted as a professional adviser to the Scottish Government on developing its children’s policy, Getting it Right for Every Child. Latterly, she worked with the Welsh Government on its safeguarding reforms and as an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University. She has published widely including, with Julie Barnes, the second biennial analysis of serious case reviews, Improving Safeguarding Practice, for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008).

Note: This guide to reflective practice is intended to be read in conjunction with the associated Good Practice Guide. Practice points and questions for practitioners are based on the findings identified in the case reviews studied.


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