understanding and working with relationships, fell out of fashion in social work. Case management, rather than casework, became the order of the day and focused on permanency as a task to be completed in a certain time, instead of as a process of dynamic engagement with families.
Permanency planning should go beyond finding a placement to ensuring that
every child has lifelong positive relationships The cost of this neglect of children’s long-term
relationships as they grow into adulthood is high. Research shows that good social relationships promote self-esteem, performance at school, employment prospects, and health and well being. So the challenge is clear: permanency planning should go beyond finding a placement to ensuring that every child has lifelong positive relationships with people who can support them. Social workers have a crucial role in facilitating these relationships and it should be borne in mind that it is never too late to establish them. Family group conferences can be a way of
identifying important adults at different points in a young person’s life. Adoptive families are one source of these
positive relationships, so it is regrettable that such THECOLLEGEOFSOCIALWORKMAGAZINE 13
families are not found for perhaps as many as a quarter of children with adoption recommendations. Suitable adopters may prove elusive, but there is also evidence that ‘good enough’ families are being turned away, and that local authorities are refusing to pay for voluntary adoption agencies, despite the potential for overall longer-term cost savings to children’s departments. Permanent long-term fostering can also be
effective in providing lifelong relationships. Where children grow up in a stable foster family, research shows, their academic achievement is equal to that of their adopted peers, and levels of mental health difficulties in early adolescence are about the same. But it is vital that relationships formed during foster care are continued afterwards and that the progress made is not squandered. Too many young people still leave care with no supportive adult in their lives and are consequently unable to build on their achievements in foster care. Social workers should insist on the importance of these positive relationships as part of their day to day work with children. Genuine improvement in children’s lives depends on them. SWM