Global Perspectives on Foster Family Care

Review by Angie Bartoli, Senior Lecturer at University of Northampton

Global Perspectives on Foster Family Care is reminiscent of a back-packing tour one might take during a gap year, full of intriguing pit-stops, some of which you might return to for a longer stay in the future.

The book includes ten very different countries: Argentina, China, France, India, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA. It is an interesting, electric group of countries, spanning several continents with diverse social-political and economic contexts, welfare systems, sizes (both geographic and demographic), religions, cultures, languages, and traditions.

Apart from the Indian contribution, the other nine authors are academics. For some countries, fostering is a concept in its infancy (for example Argentina and China), whilst for others (including France, UK and USA) it is a long-standing social work practice underpinned by legislation, theories and social policy.

The editors, Professors Matthew Colton and Margaret Williams, provided the chapter authors with a highly structured common format in order to make comparisons. Given this, it is disappointing not to find a table which graphically provides the reader with a ‘compare and contrast’ summary at a glance. This is probably due to the fact that some of the prescribed chapter sub-headings provided to the authors were not a comfortable fit with all the countries in terms of relevance or priority. This does make some aspects of the contributions somewhat contrived but no less interesting.

The concluding overview provided by the editors, summarises the key issues succinctly. It is on the one hand comforting to realise that many corners of the globe are grappling with similar issues. On the other, it’s disheartening that no country has yet to find a common solution for children and young people caught up in the system of alternative family care.

For any children’s services practitioner in the UK, the emerging issues will look and sound familiar: minority children, disabilities, kinship care, contact with birth families, professionalisation and payment of carers, recruitment and retention of carers and poor outcomes for children.

This easy-to-read book is an excellent choice for practitioners, managers, academics and policy-makers alike who are interested in global issues connected with foster care, without having to leave the comfort of their armchairs and avoiding the ever-increasing check-in queues at airports.

Colton, M. and Williams, M. Eds. (2006) Global Perspectives on Foster Family Care Russell House Publishing, Dorset ISBN 1-903855-88-8

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