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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

A look at permanency planning challenges in the U.K.

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This guest blog post was written by Jessica Hansen.


Planning for permanency in adoption can be a challenging process not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the globe. Judy Selwyn, author of The Challenges in Planning for Permanency, is the Director of the Hadley Center for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol in England. Selwyn discusses that in England, permanency planning became a major focus of concern as children started drifting into the care system without plans of permanent homes or relationships

Selwyn gives insight to a very important issue regarding youth in the care system: the importance of children's relationships. Very early on in the United Kingdom (UK), permanency planning became one and the same with adoption and the focus on a child's relationships was replaced with the importance of a placement in general. Services in the UK for birth families and for children in the system started to dwindle. Children were spending far too much time drifting through the system and not enough time in the permanent care of secure, healthy placements.

Selwyn states that in 2002, the Adoption and Children Act stressed the importance of permanency planning, reducing delay in decision making and securing better outcomes for children through the timely planning of a permanent placement secured by legal order. This act also reinforced the importance of relationships and long-term support from adults to help children thrive in school, gain self-esteem and have a greater out-look on life. Selwyn does a great job explaining that the challenge of permanency planning is not to find a placement, but to ensure that every child and young person has lifelong connections to people who will continue to offer positive relationships and support.

Selwyn also gives some reasons why children are not connected through the foster care system. She makes the point that older children are harder to adopt out, but those children are still able to make strong connections with healthy, reliable adults that help to foster children's growth into adolescence or young adulthood even without permanency. One limitation I discovered while reading this article is that although Selwyn focuses on children's current relationships, she does not go into much detail about how to build relationships with children who lack a presence of these relationships. I think she could have identified how adults can make it a point when working with or supporting children in foster care, to maintain and continue to build these relationships on their own and also by connecting these children to other healthy relationships or mentoring programs that can facilitate this process.

Overall, I think this article does a great job stating the importance of stable, healthy relationships with children in the foster care system. I found it written very clear within the article that the reality is, not every child will be adopted, but if these same children have safe, secure relationships with adults in their support networks, children can build a safety net with these social supports for their transition into adulthood.

To read more, go to this link or you can read the journal here:

Selwyn, J. (2010). The Challenges in Planning for Permanency. Adoption & Fostering, 34(3), 32-37.

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