February 2020
Issue on the Scottish Independent Care Review

“Lewis is 12 and has lived in 8 different places. He has never lived anywhere longer than 2 years. He thinks he must be difficult to look after. He doesn't see his mum very often but when he does, she tells him the changes she has made to make sure he can come home soon. Lewis likes hearing this. He would really like to see his cousins again. Lewis' mum regularly meets with the social workers. Recently there have been lots of meetings. She doesn't really know what the meetings are for, but hopes it means Lewis will be able to come home very soon...Lewis has lots of questions but no one seems to be able to answer them."

- Lewis' Story - Independent Care Review Composite Stories


This special issue of the BCN Newsletter features the Independent Care Review in Scotland , the first 'root and branch' review of care anywhere in the world. In autumn 2016, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, heard directly from people with lived experience of the care system in Scotland as they shared their stories, campaigned for change, and called for an Independent Review of the system.
The Care Review then commenced, with the commitment that it would be ‘a review like no other,’ and Fiona Duncan became the Chair of the Care Review in February 2017, stating:
“While the review will be complex and the issues challenging, it will be the expertise of children and young people with lived experience of the system who will ensure a focus on what matters. It will be crucial that the review not only hears their voices, but that real change happens as a result.”
The process and the branding were co-designed with children and young people with care experience from the outset and throughout the life of the Care Review. The final reports were published on 5th February 2020, and immediately followed up with cross-party support in Scotland and a commitment to implement the conclusions .
Four key lessons from the Care Review in Scotland are as follows:

  1. Listening to infants, children and young people must shift the balance of power and no child should ever be seen as ‘hard to reach’. We must value lived experience much more than we currently do.
  2. There must be a greater focus on building and maintaining lifelong relationships that includes a broader understanding of the risk of not having long term, loving relationships.
  3. Scotland must parent, not process, children. We must be considerate about the language we use, and understand the success of care by understanding lived experiences and not just system measures.
  4. Scotland must commit to supporting families to stay together as much as possible. This means recognising that poverty contributes to children being taken away from their families. We need to invest in families and their complexity to radically reduce the number of children taken away from families
This issue of the BCN newsletter, published jointly with the Independent Care Review , highlights the collection of reports and materials produced by the Review, as well as other articles and resources highlighting its findings and recommendations. There is rich learning in both the conclusions and the quality of the review process, where people with care experience have been centrally involved at every level and every stage of the Care Review. 
The Review also offers key lessons on how similar root and branch reviews of care could be conducted in other countries. Readers can follow the conversation, and lend their support, by using the hashtag #KeepThePromise on social media.

Jimmy Paul
Co-Chair, Independent Care Review

Florence Martin
Director, Better Care Network

Focus on the Scottish Independent Care Review

One of several reports produced as part of the Scottish Independent Care Review, The Promise sets out an overall view of what the new approach to children's care in Scotland should be, organized around five foundations: voice, family, care, people, and scaffolding. Everything in The Promise, and the other Care Review reports, reflects what the Care Review heard. 

The Pinky Promise presents a young reader-friendly version of  The Promise  report, which sets out an overall view of what the new approach to children's care in Scotland should be.

The Plan outlines how to implement the changes recommended in  The Promise . The Plan report calls for a time-bound plan for thoughtful reform in Scotland, including a re-design of current services and establishing new services, always based on meeting the needs of those they exist to serve, rather than the needs of the system, as well as a shift in operating culture.

This report demonstrates the current legislative framework of the Scottish care system and how it must change to achieve  The Promise . The Review found that the 'rules' governing children's care in Scotland are complex and often contradictory. This report calls for a new set of Rules - with the UNCRC as the bedrock upon which all future legislation is based - that work for children, young people and their families across all Five Foundations of The Promise and reflect their lives, not the systems priorities. 

One of several reports produced as part of the Scottish  Independent Care Review , this report explains how Scotland can invest better in its children and families. There were two key objectives of this report: (1) To quantify the human costs and impacts of the current ‘care system’ and (2) To determine the financial costs of the current ‘care system’.

This paper was written by Dr Katherine Trebeck and is her reflections on what was found as a result of the work done to Follow the Money, the report of the Independent Care Review that produced the financial argument needed to challenge the way Scotland invests in its ‘care system’. The paper reviews the human costs of the current care system, what was learned from Follow the Money, and what this means for future investment.

This Thank You is intended for the thousands of people who contributed to the Scottish  Independent Care Review , volunteering to take part in the groups and give their time, professional expertise, stories, and experiences. The Thank You report describes the process of the Care Review and how children, young people and adults with care experience were involved.

Related Topics: Child Participation


In this video, Independent Care Review Chair Fiona Duncan describes what the Care Review heard and what Scotland must now do for children and their families.

The  Independent Scottish Care Review  created 12 composite stories, which means the stories are not real people but have been written to reflect the experiences the Care Review heard. These films show what the Care Review learned from talking with children, young people, their families and carers. 

Related Topics: Child Participation

In this video, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, issues a statement on the publication of the final report of the  Scottish Independent Care Review . In her statement, Sturgeon underlines her personal and political commitment to turning the recommendations made by the report into reality as quickly as possible.


These accompanying infographics outline what Scotland must do for each of The Promise report’s Five Foundations: Voice, Family, Care, People, and Scaffolding. Click the image above to view all five infographics.

Related Articles

This article for The Herald Scotland describes the recently launched Scottish Independent Care Review as "a once-in-a-generation scrutiny of our care system, with far-reaching recommendations for change. It is not unreasonable to expect that other countries might look upon it as a model for their own systems." 

This article from BBC News tells the story of siblings who were separated by Scotland's care system and highlights findings from the recent Independent Care Review in Scotland which revealed the "profound and lifelong consequences" of sibling separation.

According to this article from the Herald Scotland, the Independent  Scottish Care Review  has calculated that the cost of the care system letting down children and their families is £1.6 billion. "This is a combination of £875 million in meeting the needs of care-experienced people as a result of the system failing them and £732 million in lost income tax and national insurance." 

This article from Tes Scotland highlights some of the key findings and recommendations from the Scottish Independent Care Review , including the call on schools to "stop excluding looked-after children and avoid reductions in these pupils' timetables that mean they are 'denied their rights to education.'"  

This article from Holyrood features an interview with Fiona Duncan, Corra Foundation chief executive and chair of the Independent Care Review, herself care-experienced. “What we did was look at what matters to children and young people throughout their lives, before care, in care, after care, in order to understand how this operating environment has to change to fit children, rather than how children have to change to fit in,” says Duncan.

This article from BBC News presents the findings and recommendations of the  Independent Scottish Care Review , which was welcomed by Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. According to the article, Sturgeon called the Review "one of the most important moments" in her time as first minister and is "'committed' to turning its vision for caring for young people into reality as quickly as possible."

This article from STV News describes the history of the  Independent Scottish Care Review , including the advocacy of looked-after young people featured in a STV documentary whose efforts led, in part, to the call for the Independent Review in 2016. According to the article, after sharing their stories in the documentary, Laura Beveridge and Ashley Cameron were invited, along with two others, to a face-to-face meeting with Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who later announced a a 'root-and-branch' review of the care system. 

This article from the National highlights the findings and recommendations of the  Independent Scottish Care Review . The article also features an interview with Kenny Murray, public affairs co-ordinator at Who Cares? Scotland – also care experienced – who welcomed the recommendations around better family support. "[My mother] should never have had to choose between getting help and keeping us at home," said Murray. "In years to come we’re going to look back and see that we’ve often taken poor children away from their parents."

This article from the Scotsman shares the story of Charlotte Armitage, a young woman who grew up in care in Scotland. The article connects Armitage's experiences to those shared in Scotland's Independent Care Review, which calls for "an end to systemic failures that lead to young people like Armitage being caused more damage by the very system designed to protect them."

Understanding the Situation

This report from Family for Every Child examines the growing use of kinship care, including its value and support needs for safe and effective use. The report argues that there is an urgent need to increase support to children living with relatives or friends of their family, with key recommendations made for national governments, donors and UN agencies.

Related Topics: Kinship Care

This report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) presents findings from an investigation based on psychological evaluations of asylum-seeking parents and children who were separated by the U.S. government in 2018. The investigation found pervasive symptoms and behaviors consistent with trauma, particularly the trauma of family separation.

This report from Save the Children delves into the differences between boys’ and girls’ experiences through a gendered analysis of the six grave violations of children in conflict, including recruitment of children by armed forces and child abduction. The report makes reference to the vulnerabilities faced by girl heads of household or unaccompanied and separated girls on the move and calls for interventions such as family tracing and reunification, the provision of alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children, and the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups.

Using two U.S. national databases (NYTD and AFCARS), this study from the Children and Youth Services Review : (1) describes the prevalence of disability among older youth in foster care (age 17) and (2) investigates differences in educational and employment outcomes at age 21 among youth with and without disability diagnoses, with attention toward distinguishing emotional from non-emotional diagnoses. 

This article from the journal of Child & Family Social Work presents analysis from the Outcomes for children before and after care proceedings reform study, which linked administrative records with a research database of care proceedings to examine children's care and service journeys associated with care proceedings in England and Wales. 

Related Topics: Foster Care
This episode of  The Brain Architects Podcast  explores what “toxic stress” means, and what we can do about it. "Toxic stress," says Shonkoff, "is when there is no reliable adult to help you through. It’s the stress from severe chronic neglect. It’s the stress from being in deep poverty or in a violent environment where you don’t feel like anybody is helping you feel safe. Toxic stress is about the absence of adult support to get through.

The UK Department for Education commissioned the research on which this report is based to gain a better overall understanding of the issues around the use of unregulated and unregistered provision for looked after children (LAC) and care leavers.

Related Topics: Residential Care

The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children has launched the  Global Report 2019, tracking progress towards universal prohibition of corporal punishment. This report reveals the States considered by the Initiative to be committed to prohibiting corporal punishment, following a review in 2019 which saw the number of committed States fall dramatically. 

Related Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect

This handbook provides a central source of contemporary scholarship from a variety of disciplines with an international perspective and uses a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach to ground adoption practices and activities in scientific research.

Related Topics: Adoption and Kafala
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines

This document sets out the Scottish Funding Council's National Ambition for Care-Experienced Students for the college and university sectors, outlining their commitment to equal outcomes for care-experienced students and their peers by 2030.

The WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission  lays the foundations for a new global movement for child health that addresses two crises - the global climate emergency and predatory commercial exploitation - and presents high-level recommendations that position children at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Commission highlights the importance of families in ensuring children receive entitlements and are well cared-for, stating "the realisation of children’s entitlements depends on families. Young children require a stable environment created by parents and other caregivers to ensure good health and nutrition, protection from threats, opportunities for early learning, and love and emotional support."

Doing research involving children in the context of sexual exploitation raises a range of ethical questions and dilemmas. This document from ECPAT International provides guidance for negotiating these ethical questions for a range of people engaged in field research (from lead researchers to data collectors).

Learning from Practice

This report describes the evolution of an independent youth-led organization for youth in and from care in Quebec, Canada (CARE Jeunesse). The board of CARE Jeunesse, comprising former youth in care, wrote this article with the participation of a university professor who is an adult ally to the alumni of care movement in Quebec. 

Related Topics: Child Participation
This article from the journal of International Social Work describes the impact on social services of an innovative model of family care in Moshi, Tanzania , aimed at orphaned children and youth who are affected by HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. 

This report from RELAF summarizes the presentations and discussions from RELAF's 2019 International Seminar. This document reviews some of the work and progress made toward the fulfillment of children’s right to family life, particularly in the Latin American context.

Related Topics: Parenting Support

In this issue, we highlight the care-related Concluding Observations adopted by the  Committee on the Rights of the Child  at its  83rd session  held 20 January to 7 February 2020 , with a particular focus on sections addressing children's care.
Click below to read the Country Care Reviews for the following countries:

This episode of Foreign Correspondent from ABC News in Australia exposes the "ugly truth" that donations and volunteer efforts of Westerners, including Australians, often drive an exploitative orphanage industry in developing countries (in this case, Nepal ).

Related Topics: Residential Care

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Newsletter participants, currently 4,394 in total, work on issues related to the care and support of vulnerable children across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The purpose of the newsletter is to enable members to exchange information on matters of mutual concern. If you would like to share a document, raise a specific issue, request a newsletter subscription, or reach out in any other way to the Network, please send the information to us at  contact@bettercarenetwork.org  or visit our website at  www.bettercarenetwork.org.  

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