The Understanding Children's Social Care Series is published by the Institute of Education, University of London in collaboration with the Department for Education and Skills. The series reports the findings of short-term research studies carried out for the Department by the Thomas Coram Research Unit. The studies have a particular relevance to the Quality Protects and Choice Protects programmes for improving children's services. The series aims to provide policy makers, practitioners and service managers with key findings from current research that will help them to implement the government's objectives for children's social services. Local authority support foster care schemes help families who are experiencing difficulties or stress by providing short breaks for children and support for parents. They offer a flexible service that can be used in a variety of circumstances - for example, when a child is excluded from school or a parent needs regular short stays in hospital, as well as when parents are finding it hard to cope with their children.
Support care schemes (apart from specialist schemes for disabled children) have been slow to develop, and the Department of Health commissioned the Thomas Coram Research Unit to find out more about barriers that deter local authorities from establishing such schemes. Are legal issues - such as whether children in support care need to be treated as looked after - causing concern? Or do authorities fear that support schemes will compete with mainstream foster care for resources and potential carers? Support Foster Care explores these and other issues, presenting a comprehensive picture of the challenges of maintaining a support foster care scheme and the lessons that can be learned for future schemes.