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Permanence for disabled children and young people through foster care and adoption : a selective review of international literature

Welch, Vicki and Jones, Christine and Stalker, Kirsten and Stewart, Alasdair (2015) Permanence for disabled children and young people through foster care and adoption : a selective review of international literature. Children and Youth Services Review, 53. pp. 137-146. ISSN 0190-7409

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Children who have been removed from their parents need stability and permanence; this is as true for disabled children as it is for others. Yet many children are subject to extended periods of uncertainty and instability. Growing attention has been paid to the need to achieve permanence within a timescale which meets children’s needs. As disabled children are over-represented in looked after (in care) populations it is especially important that their needs are considered when formulating policy and practice in this area. This review of literature covers international material related to stability and permanence for disabled children, in particular permanence achieved through fostering and adoption. A scoping method was used to identify and analyse a broad range of material. Ninety texts were included in the review, including material from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, China and the Netherlands. Empirical research included quantitative, mixed methods and qualitative studies. Other sources included literature reviews and a small number of research-based 'think pieces' and briefings. Disabled children often have permanence outcomes and experiences which differ from those of other children; most often they are disadvantaged by systematic features of services and by the latent disablism of decision-makers, professionals, carers and potential carers. The findings also show that disabled children are not a homogenous group and that characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity and impairment type show complex relationships with permanence through adoption and foster care. Important gaps in current knowledge are identified, including disabled children's views and experiences in relation to achieving permanence. Several areas of policy and practice are highlighted where effort to improve permanence needs to be made. These range from tackling negative professional attitudes about the prospects of placing disabled children to further development of non-traditional approaches to the recruitment of foster carers and adopters.