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Guidance launched to help children benefit from pets in adoptive and foster homes

Local authorities encouraged to develop policies to help foster carers

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has launched Dogs and pets in fostering and adoption, a good practice guide to help foster carers, social workers, adopters, special guardians and panel members develop proportionate policies in relation to dogs and other pets. The move comes after some fostering services and practitioners expressed confusion around best practice, and implemented unhelpful and risk-averse policies.

The guide highlights the physical and emotional benefits a pet can bring for looked after children, including promoting attachment in human to human relationships through softening and switching. Softening is how the animal helps the child experience the foster home as a positive environment. Switching is where the child first develops a relationship with the animal first , and then recognising that the animal also trusts the carer, begins to trust them too.

Paul Adams, Foster Care Development Consultant, and author of the guide commented:

"Dogs and other pets can provide a loyal, non-judgmental and constant companion for fostered and adopted children, and help to promote attachment between humans. It is important that local authorities develop measured policies to help foster carers, social workers, adopters and special guardians to manage their pets in adoptive and fostering contexts. We hope this good practice guide will help them to achieve this."

Caroline Selkirk, BAAF's new Chief Executive, said:

"With one in four UK children growing up with a pet, it is a shame for children in care to miss out, particularly when it is these children who could benefit the most from the experience."

The guide was created with input from pet charity Blue Cross, and it incorporates the experience of adopters and foster carers.

Tracy Genever, Education Manager at Blue Cross said:

"There are so many benefits to having a pet in the family and many children grow up considering their pet to be their best friend and close confidante. We are pleased that help is now available which may enable more pet owners to foster and adopt children and more children to enjoy growing up with a family pet."

The guidelines are available to purchase from £9.95 on the BAAF website.