Councils must be better parents

he single most important thing that will improve the futures of Scotland's looked-after children is for local authorities to focus on and improve their corporate parenting skills. That is the conclusion of the Social Work Inspection Agency, the new independent inspection body set up by the Scottish Executive last year, which yesterday launched its first major report, Extraordinary Lives (page 3).

Its aim is to ensure that children in the care of a local authority have the same chances as those living in a typical family. Yet all too often for looked-after children, care away from home compounds those early disadvantages rather than alleviates them. There are many committed adults supporting looked-after children. But some foster placements lack stability and, at times, authorities use unqualified people as substitute parents.

The Fostering Network and Barnardo's Scotland have already warned this week that the current provisions of the Adoption and Children Bill risk leaving fostering as a "poor relation" to adoption because of its lack of emphasis on fostering. The executive has the opportunity to show whether it has "time to care" about Scotland's looked-after children and to strengthen the strategic leadership it aims to provide in this area.

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