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Fostering information 'not shared'

Foster families are being put at risk because local authorities are failing to share vital information about vulnerable children with them, according to a campaign group.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of foster families said they rarely receive full details about the children who are being placed with them in a survey carried out by The Fostering Network.

The poll of 1,000 foster parents found just one in ten (9%) were always given the information they needed while a third (32%) said it "mostly" happened.

The charity said there is evidence to suggest that information is sometimes withheld by local authorities in a bid to ensure a child with a difficult background finds a home.

Foster families reported details such as evidence of previous self-harming, behavioural problems at school and a history of making false allegations against family members were not revealed to them.

Jackie Sanders, director of public affairs at the charity, said: "This survey makes clear that information is not shared as a matter of course with foster carers and we know how damaging this can be to their families and fostered children.

"When children come into care in an emergency situation, little, if any, information may be available.

"If this is the case then it should be a priority to find out as much information as possible and to share it immediately with the people caring for the child.

"Information is also sometimes withheld, either to persuade a foster carer to take a child or because foster carers are not considered to be equal members of the team working with a child.

"This is not acceptable. Whether by failure to inform, or a limited availability, a lack of information inhibits the abilities of the foster carers to meet the needs of, and to provide appropriate care for, a child.

"This means the foster carers, their families and the children in their care are being put at risk."

The charity is calling on the Government to reinforce the requirement on local authorities to share all the information they have with foster families.

It also urged Ofsted inspectors to look carefully at referral processes carried out by fostering services to help improve standards.

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