Parents who smack children to be banned from fostering

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE WHO smack their own children, or believe in physical punishment, should not be allowed to foster young people, according to the first national guidelines for foster care, to be launched today by the Government.

Potential foster families will also face more stringent police, social services, employment, and medical checks. By 2001, police checks will be carried out on every person in the household over 10 years old.

The guidelines are aimed at protecting children from sexual and physical abuse from their carers and avoiding situations where vulnerable young people are placed with violent people. They follow high-profile cases such as that of Billie-Jo Jenkins, a 13-year-old girl murdered in 1997 by her foster father, Sion Jenkins.

The standards issued by the Department of Health, are the first steps towards a national foster care service and are designed to raise the profile and status of foster carers.

Future foster parents will undergo a "transparent" recruiting process which will set out skills required for the job. There is no bar on single men or women becoming foster parents.

John Hutton, Health minister, said the guidelines would underpin the provision of high-quality care for children and young people who are placed with foster families.

"We haven't paid enough attention to fostering in the past," he said.

Gerri McAndrew, director of the National Foster Care Association, said the foster care service had to meet the needs of "vulnerable" children.

The Government has pledged pounds 6m over the next three years to improve the training of foster carers.