CFAB’s work is complex but essential. The children we work with have no one else to turn to. These are the children who have fallen through the cracks of society. They often have no safe place or family nearby and may be thousands of miles from home. Without CFAB’s help they will remain in dangerous situations or quite simply be forgotten.

Beyond our practical support, CFAB undertakes advocacy work to uphold every child’s right to family. We work with partners to inform and reform policy – this keeps international child protection on the agenda with policy makers and ensures that our unique technical expertise is fed into wider discussions about child protection.

Cross Border Child Safeguarding Working Group

CFAB’s CEO is the Chair of the Cross Border Child Safeguarding Working Group (CBCS WG). Through this group, we provide a forum where cross-sector representatives can share information on emerging issues related to international child protection and discuss solutions to practical challenges. The working group:

  • Promotes better information sharing and cooperation of agencies involved in cross-border child safeguarding cases;
  • Identifies issues of common interest where joint action can be taken to implement better safeguarding practice and policies;
  • Brings together examples of good practice for dissemination;
  • Helps to identify solutions to issues highlighted and identify changes which may be required to policy, legislation and in the recruitment, training and guidance issued to social workers and other child protection practitioners.

Helps to identify solutions to issues highlighted and identify changes which may be required to policy, legislation and in the recruitment, training and guidance issued to social workers and other child protection practitioners.

In collaboration with the CBCS WG, a number of government departments, child protection agencies, and local authority social workers, CFAB produced the International Kinship Care Guide. This is the first of its kind guide to comprehensively address good practice for placing Looked After Children currently in care in the UK with family  who live in another country.

To read the guide, click here.

Written Parliamentary Questions

In August 2021, we worked with Tulip Siddiq MP to pose a Written Parliamentary Question (WPQ) to the Department for Education regarding the process for tracking outcomes for Looked After Children who have placements abroad.  Such outcome tracking is undertaken for children in England, to ensure placements are fit for purpose. The then Minister for Children, Vicky Ford, responded that the Department tracks the country of placement, but no mention was made about the outcomes for these placements. To see the full response, click here.  While the answer was not sufficient, we were pleased with Ms Ford’s statement that “[t]he statutory responsibilities for looked after children remain with the placing local authority and Directors of Children’s Services who must approve all distant placements.”  This is a clear message, and the first time we have seen this from the Department; placing local authorities must not use lack of jurisdiction as an excuse not to ensure the well-being of a child in a placement overseas.

In September 2021, we worked with Andrew Gwynne MP on a WPQ asking whether the Department for Education has considered researching the outcomes for children placed with family overseas. This research is vital to ensure children placed with family overseas are safe and given the same support as children placed with family in England. The newly appointed Minister for Children, Will Quince MP, responded that the Department “has not made an assessment in this area”, and reiterated his predecessors' statement that local authorities have a statutory responsibility to safeguard young people, regardless of the country of their placement. You can read the full response here. Currently, we do not know the numbers of Looked After children placed with family abroad, and, if the Department for Education were to start recording this data, it would help to better inform research and policy around international social care.

In October 2021, we worked with Andrew Gwynne MP on his follow up question, asking what reasons the Department for Education has for why they do not account for the outcomes of children placed in care across borders, and whether they will reconsider conducting research into the long-term outcomes of children placed across borders. The Minister for Children reiterated the responsibility of local authorities to safeguard young people but did not commit to recording any further data on Looked After Children who are placed overseas. He acknowledged the need for real and significant change within the current system, stating that is why they launched the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. To see Quince's full response, click here. CFAB has responded to calls for evidence to the review and will continue to offer our expertise to ensure the safety and provisions for international placements are on par with those in England.

We will be working with Mr Gwynne and Ms Siddiq’s offices to continue to highlight that lack of care for and support of children in multinational families as part of our Safe, Secure and Thriving campaign.  

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Final Report

In June 2022 the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Final Report was released. Since the Review began in early 2021, CFAB has been engaging the review at every stage – writing letters, submitting evidence and offering our expertise to the Panel.  

We welcome the Report’s focus on rebalancing children’s social care away from crisis intervention and more towards preventative action.  We endorse the recommendation to make a substantial investment to support children to stay with their families.  In particular, we whole-heartedly approve of the recommendations that local authorities should make a financial allowance paid at the same rate as their fostering allowance available for Special Guardians and kinship carers, that legal aid should be provided in a range of circumstances and that training should be facilitated for all kinship carers.

CFAB continuously called for the Review to include international kinship care and is disappointed it was not sufficiently explored as an option. CFAB will continue to ensure international kinship care is an option that is explored for Looked After Children and will extend our offer to the Department of Education to assist in the development of international kinship care guidance for local authorities.  If a new legal definition of kinship care is to be developed, as recommended by the Report, it would be a fundamental deprivation of child rights if international kinship carers were not included.  

The impact of Brexit on cross-border child protection

When Britain left the EU, we left many arrangements and agreements that underpinned many of the UK's cross border child protection and family reunion cooperation with the European Union.

We left the Brussels IIa Regulation, altering how cross-border care proceedings with EU countries are now managed. We left The Dublin Agreements on reuniting asylum-seeking families. The free movement of people officially ended, meaning European children in the UK must settle their status by June 2021 to avoid losing any of their fundamental rights in the UK.

To tackle these challenges, we have been preparing a range of activities and resources:

  • We have produced a number of Guides around leaving Brussels IIa and using The Hague Convention 1996 which can be found on our Guides page.
  • We have written an in-depth article on the legal framework around cross-border care proceedings for children connected to the EU which can be accessed on Community Care Learn.
  • On 7th July 2021, we hosted a webinar for Consular staff entitled The UK's EU departure and the end of the EU Settlement Scheme in partnership with The Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. The Guides produced for this event can be found here.
  • As Chair of the Cross Border Child Safeguarding Working Group, CFAB’s CEO, Carolyn Housman recently engaged with the Association of Directors of Children's Services, asking them to lay out their plan to ensure all European children in care are supported regularise their status. We are awaiting their response. 

CFAB’s contribution to The Centre for Social Justice’s Report, Safely Reducing the Number of Children Going into Care

In early 2021, we were delighted to be asked to contribute to a report compiled by The Centre for Social Justice, Safely Reducing the Number of Children Going into Care.

This report focuses on the failings of the current children’s care system, the poor outcomes for children in care and the alarming increase in the number of children entering the care system – an increase of 3% in the last year.

Importantly, the report also provides potential solutions, focusing on impact of relationships and recommending that the care system should be structured in such a way that continuous stable relationships, both within the family and with professionals, can be encouraged.

Within the report, CFAB’s CEO Carolyn Housman points out that there are currently 18,000 Looked After Children in England and Wales who may have family members abroad who could – and should – be explored as options for their long-term care. The report highlights CFAB’s Freedom of Information request which demonstrated that over half of the local authorities in England and Wales had not considered family overseas as a care option for children between 2015 - 2017. Given the high number of children in England with family overseas, and to improve the chances of future family reunification, CFAB has launched a campaign – Safe, Secure and Thriving – which calls for improved data on the number of children in care who have family abroad, on the number of placements of children from care with family abroad, and on the outcomes for these placements.  

To find out more and read the report, click here.

To find out more about CFAB’s Safe, Secure and Thriving campaign, click here.