Leading article: Still failing

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The Independent Online

Several messages can be taken from the interview given to this newspaper by the outgoing head of Barnardo's, Martin Narey.

Taken together, though, they amount to an indictment of the way this country treats the children whose homes, for whatever reason, are inadequate. He cites research showing that six out of ten children returned to their families after being taken into care are abused or neglected again within two years. This is an appalling reflection, both on the calibre of the professionals who make the decision and the failure of social services to tackle the families' deeper problems.

In part because of the public stance taken by Mr Narey, but also because of recent cases, such as that of Baby Peter, the pendulum may be starting to swing against the presumption that children are usually better off with their parents. If anything is to improve, however, the other half of the argument must also be addressed. While much foster-care is admirable, some of it is not. And the way so many children are shuffled from one home to another only perpetuates the instability that already blighted their lives. Mr Narey is right to condemn the low adoption rates in recent years, but the whole system needs an overhaul, in which decent children's homes may also have a place.

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