The broader picture.

Author:Blower, Sarah
Position:Global Perspectives on Foster Family Care - Book review

Global Perspectives on Foster Family Care Matthew Colton and Margaret Williams (eds) Russell House Publishing 2006 176 pages 19.95 [pounds sterling]

Enlightening and well informed, Global Perspectives on Family Foster Care aims to provide readers with an insight into foster care systems in diverse countries spanning five continents: ten chapters comprise descriptive and analytical exposition of the philosophies, policies and practices of family foster care in Argentina, China, France, India, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The chapters are structured, as far as is possible, around specific headings including jurisdiction, political systems, welfare ideology, history and origins of foster care, legal framework, service provision, messages from research, major issues and future trends.

Colton and Williams prescribe the book for students and teachers, researchers, policy-makers and practitioners with an interest in child welfare. The section on further information and references at the conclusion of each chapter will be especially useful to students and anyone wishing to delve deeper into the world of foster care. It is an insightful text, not just for its description of different foster care systems but also the fit between these systems and the wider social and political context of the countries in question.

An unfaltering, and perhaps unsurprising, finding from this cross-country comparison is that foster care systems across the globe are shaped by a complex interplay between public, private, not-for-profit and for-profit agencies in addition to cultural, political and historical influences. Each nation experiences its own unique blend of these factors and, consequently, the experience of children requiring out-of-home placement varies. For example, over the last twenty years, a growing sense of community solidarity has facilitated the emergence of foster care within the social welfare system of Argentina, although Argentinian children in need are still more likely to find themselves institutionalised than in the care of a relative or foster family. In Japan, on the other hand, cultural attitudes favour blood-ties over non-relative relationships and this, among other factors, threatens to extinguish a centuries-old foster care practice from public policy and private practice. South Africa faces another quite different struggle as the HIV/AIDS crisis places increasing pressure on a fast-developing foster...

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