Over the past fifty years, public care for children in England has undergone a significant transformation moving almost exclusively towards foster care as the preferred mode of delivery. The most recent data from the Department for Education for the year ending 31 March 2018, reported that 73% of all Looked After Children (LAC) were placed in foster care with just 8% in residential placements (DfE 2018
). Compared to an almost even split of 45% of children in Foster Care (or ‘boarded out’) and 42% of children in residential care in 1966 (Bebbington and Miles 1990
), the scale of this shift becomes apparent.
This transformation has been driven by a social policy discourse promoted by successive governments, which has privileged foster care as the most suitable place for children needing out-of-home public care. According to the Oxford English Dictionary
) privilege is defined as ’A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group’. Therefore, in terms of the public care of children and young people, the argument being made is that foster carers have been granted, through the exercise of state social policy, a special right or advantage. Research exploring the impact of care, such as that conducted by Ofsted
), reports that although the majority of care leavers felt that entering care had made their lives better (61%), a significant minority reported that entering care had made their lives worse (26%). Therefore, there are good reasons to explore whether the provision of public care is meeting the needs of all children and young people.
Although there has arguably been a long-standing preference for foster care from as early as the mid-nineteenth century (Packman 1975
), the work of the Curtis Committee and the subsequent Children Act 1948 enshrined in law its privileged position which has since been reinforced by successive governments. Under Section 13 of the Children Act 1948, which details the ‘Mode of provision of accommodation and maintenance’ for children requiring local authority care, it is stated that:
13 (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a local authority shall discharge their duty to provide accommodation and maintenance for a child in their care—
(a) by boarding him out on such terms as to payment by the authority and otherwise as the authority may, subject to the provisions of this Act and regulations thereunder, determine;
(b) where it is not practicable or desirable for the time being to make arrangements for boarding-out, by maintaining the child in a home provided under this Part of this Act or by placing him in a voluntary home the managers of which are willing to receive him.
This clearly indicated that in the first instance children requiring local authority care were to be boarded out (placed in foster care) and only if this was not practicable or desirable should a children’s home be considered.
This privilege was reinforced by the influential work of Dr John Bowlby in respect of ‘attachment theory’ as outlined in his monograph for the World Health Organisation ‘Maternal Care and Mental Health’ in 1951 (Bowlby 1951
) and his later book ‘Childcare and the growth of love’ in 1953 (Bowlby 1953
). For Packman, Bowlby was pivotal in convincing governments that ‘The value placed on a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute—one person who steadily “mothers” him) meant that if a child had to be separated from his parents, the best remedy was not an institution, but an adoptive or foster home, where the optimum conditions for his mental health would prevail’ (Packman 1975, p. 22
). Bowlby’s ideas were warmly received by the Curtis Committee (1946) who, according to (Packman 1975, p. 5
), had been tasked in the wake of the death of Dennis O’Neill to explore existing methods of care and consider how best to provide public care. As one of the key witnesses to the Curtis inquiry, Bowlby’s ideas were influential in shaping the work of Children’s Officers introduced as part of the Children Act 1948 reforms. Packman
(1975, p. 23
) argues that ‘There is no doubt that Bowlby exerted a profound influence on the new service…much of what he wrote was directed specifically at the new service, and as early as 1951 he addressed the annual conference of the Association of Children’s Officers’. From both the conception of the Children Act 1948 and in its application in the work of the Children’s Officers’ who headed the new Children’s Departments, foster care was being promoted as the best place for children requiring public care, reinforced by the influential work of Bowlby. Other key witnesses to the Curtis inquiry such as Dr Winnicott and Dr Isaacs also advocated for the importance of maternal care, taking influence from psychodynamic theory, which further supported the emphasis on foster care (Packman 1975, p. 22
It was during this era that foster care emerged as the placement of choice for the state but its dominance as the main source of public care provision was further cemented by a series of key reports. Firstly, the landmark ‘Children Who Wait’ report (Rowe and Lambert 1973
) which argued that every child had a right to family care. This report also contributed to the assumption that substitute family care (including foster care) can provide a consistency in relationships that residential care cannot (Smith et al. 2017
). Furthermore, there were a series of reports which bore witness to the widespread and extended abuse of children in residential care settings in the 1990s (Utting 1991
; Waterhouse 2000
) which had a serious and long-term impact on the reputation of residential care in England and Wales.
This foster care privilege discourse is also present in the Care Matters green paper, which states that ‘a residential setting will best meet the needs of some children but for the majority of children in care a placement in a family environment will be most suitable’ (DfES 2006, p. 46
). Such rhetoric was legitimised in New Labour government (1997–2010) policy by statistics which suggest that children in foster care placements for example are much more likely to achieve 5+ GCSE/GNVQ (General Certificate of Secondary Education/General National Vocational Qualification) A–C grades than their counterparts in residential care placements (DfES 2006, Annexe C
). The privilege afforded to foster care can also be witnessed in the ‘staying put’ initiative introduced as part of the provisions of the Children and Families Act 2014 by the Coalition government (2010–2015), which places a legal duty on Local Authorities to provide financial support for every young person in England who wants to stay with their foster carers until they are 21. There is currently no such support available for young people in residential care placements, as the ‘staying close’ initiative does not support young people to stay in their residential care placements but merely enables them to live locally and maintain links to their former care home.
Furthermore, in the recent review of residential care, Narey
) stated that ‘it is entirely proper for local authorities, at least initially, to pursue fostering as the first choice for children in care’, going on to argue that ‘local authorities must treat it as the first option’ (Narey 2016, p. 21
). This review was clearly significant for the current Conservative government, which indicated in its recent ‘Putting children first’ programme for children’s social care (DfE 2016
) support for Narey’s recommendations. This resulted in the recent ‘Foster Care in England’ review (Narey and Owers 2018
), which discusses at great length the actions needed to secure and cement the position of foster care. There is clear evidence here in support of foster care as the first choice for children requiring public care.
However, this transformation has emerged in the context of the growing influence of neo-liberal political ideology which seeks to identify ways in which targeted welfare interventions can reduce the overall financial burden of children and families needing welfare support on society. As such, the New Labour government (1997–2010) identified LAC/care leavers as prime candidates for their social investment agenda, which aimed to reduce both the direct costs of welfare provision as well as ‘ameliorating the contributions of this group to the prosperity of society as a whole’ (Cronin 2013, p. 92
). It is undoubtedly the case, that the relative weekly costs of foster care (£676) and residential care (£2898) as noted by Berridge et al.
) have played a significant role in this transformation. The cost-saving potential of foster care featured recently in the government’s ‘Putting children first’ programme for children’s social care (DfE 2016
) informed by the Narey Review of Children’s Residential Care in England (2016), which advocates for the increasing use of foster care to reduce care costs. In fact, there is evidence that, in the wake of Bowlby’s influential ideas on attachment theory, the opportunity offered by foster care provision to cut costs were attractive at all levels of government. As stated in a Home Office circular in November 1952 ‘boarding out is the least expensive method of child care both in money and manpower and in the present financial condition of the country it is imperative to exercise the strictest economy’ (as cited in Packman 1975, p. 24
), in his book ‘Decision in Childcare’, pointed out that in 1952/3 the average cost of institutional care was 2.9 times than that of boarding out (foster care) and this gap widened to 3.7 times by 1961/2. It seems apparent that the potential financial savings offered by foster care provision have been attractive to the state for some time.
There are also reasons to revisit the focus on attachment theory as a rationale for privileging foster care, as there have been some significant critiques of these ideas. According to Field
), attachment theory relies heavily on momentary stressful situations as its evidence base with a focus on the mother or an alternative primary carer. It does not take adequate account of a broader range of potential attachment figures or opportunities for attachments at different stages in our lives. Vicedo
), referring to the work of Margaret Mead, reiterates the limitations of attachment theory which focuses on one single figure in the child’s life (mother) whilst dismissing the extensive cross-cultural evidence of the value of a wider network of adults being involved in the child’s upbringing. Vicedo
) argues that attachment theory fails to take account of the child’s cultural context and the extensive evidence that, in many societies, children are taken care of by a wide range of family as well as members of their local community. Furthermore, Smith, Cameron and Reimer (Smith et al. 2017
) caution against the ‘overuse’ of attachment theory and suggest greater consideration of the conditions in which key relationships develop and the stability of placements. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that children and young people have the potential to form attachments or key relationships with whoever is providing their care and at different points in their care experience. In fact, residential care, for example, could provide a number of adults for the child to connect with, which may result in them having a greater chance of establishing a meaningful attachment or relationship with a key adult (Furnivall 2011
There is also cause to view with caution comparative outcomes for children and young people in foster care and residential care in England, as they often have considerably different care journeys. Children in residential care often experience greater levels of instability, as this form of care has become a ‘last resort’ (Petrie et al. 2006
) where other forms of care have failed. In other European countries, outcomes for LAC in different types of placements do not necessarily mirror the English experience, with in some cases more positive outcomes for children and young people in residential care (Petrie et al. 2006
). There are of course difficulties when attempting such comparisons in terms of thresholds for entry into public care and the investment in these services in different countries but what is clear is the absence of a clear social policy consensus across these countries which favours foster care over residential care for all children. In comparison to the position of residential care in England, in other European countries ‘residential accommodation is more likely to be seen as a positive placement option for children and young people than as something of a last resort’ (Petrie et al. 2006, p. 92
The impact of this privilege on practice is noted in a National Audit Office report, which stated ‘Local authorities base decisions on children’s placements on short-term affordability rather than on places to best meet the children’s needs’ (NAO 2014, p. 9
). The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) speculate that ‘There may be rules in place that affect placement decisions, such as a rule that the child’s first placement should be with an in-house foster carer, to reduce the use of higher cost placements’ (NSPCC 2015, p. 24
). Hart et al.
) state that children tend to experience a series of unsuccessful foster placements before residential care is discussed by social services. However, what is not clear is the impact this foster care privilege may have had on a group of vulnerable children and young people for whom the option of a placement, for example in a residential care home, may be more appropriate.
Research with care leavers also reports the negative impact on LAC of numerous placement moves and the subsequent inability to form secure relationships essential for successful transitions into independence (Stein 2005
). This is a particular problem in respect of the UK model, as in a recent survey by The Fostering Network
) it was reported that 40% of fostered teenagers were already living with their third foster carer and 29% of children aged 5–10 years were also living with their third foster carer. Recent research (Kerr 2016
), also reports that increasing numbers of children are experiencing foster care breakdowns as a result of a fostering first policy, even if the child’s needs might be better met by a residential placement. Furthermore, such children whose final placement (after multiple foster care placements) was in a residential care home have the worst outcomes.
It is not therefore inconceivable that the absence of placement options may have contributed to the frequency of placement moves for some children and young people. According to Hannon, Wood and Cazalet (Hannon et al. 2010, p. 11
), ‘the complex make-up of the care population reaffirms the range of purposes the system serves and the limitations inherent in pursuing a ‘one size fits all’ approach’. Therefore, it seems reasonable to hypothesise that limiting placement options in public care may be contributing to the poor experiences and outcomes for those children and young people requiring this provision.
This article will therefore consider the drivers for this transformation in public care which has seen the vast majority of public care being provided by foster carers. It will examine drivers in terms of the social policy justifications for privileging foster care with reference to key social, historical and political factors. It will consider the implications of privileging foster care in terms of meeting the care needs of these children and young people.
3. The Reluctant State
In this first theme, it is intended to explore the increasing objectification of the child and the motivations for the state’s growing interest in its ‘normalisation’ (Foucault 1982
). This process will be located in terms of Foucault’s ‘art of government’ (Foucault 1982
) and the exercise of power to govern the lives of children. Historical, political and social academic commentary will be utilised to locate the emergence of particular ‘discourses’ which sought to objectify, normalise and justify the governing of childhood.
Although there is a long history in Britain of looking after the poor, there is an equally long history of the state’s reluctance to intervene in the lives of individuals and families. Yeo and Lovell
) state that there is evidence that, as early as the fourteenth century, a law was passed to support those who were out of work. Later in 1536, ‘parishes were authorised to collect money to support the poor and the community were expected to take some responsibility for the unemployed, sick and disabled’ (Yeo and Lovell 2002, p. 171
). However, it is also apparent from historical record that these parishes were reluctant to offer support except where absolutely necessary:
Whereas women big with bastard children are frequently intruding themselves into this parish for the purpose of lying-in, the overseers will prosecute all who harbour or take them in as lodgers.
(Swinney’s Birmingham Chronicle, September 1799)
This reluctance was also at the heart of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, which was introduced to address concerns that previous provisions had not offered an effective deterrent to those seeking support. This Act was designed to deter people from seeking support, which would result in almost all submitting themselves to the harsh conditions of the workhouse (which for families meant being separated from each other and working very long hours) in exchange for meagre relief. For Shaw and Frost
), these workhouses were designed to ensure only the most desperate would seek assistance. The prime purpose of this Act for Jackson
) was to prevent people from becoming a burden on the state and the limitation of expenditure. Furthermore, for Stanley
(2012, p. 247
), ‘The Poor Law deterrence ethic was based on the idea that support was not assumed to be a municipal responsibility’. This reflected the established relationship between the state and the private family, which affirmed the patriarchal tradition that it was the responsibility of the head of the household to provide for his family. It was clearly the case that, at this point, the state was reasserting its reluctance to offer support and the dominant discourse implied that those forced to seek assistance were deficient in the necessary moral calibre to work hard and provide for themselves.
However, several factors were influential in focusing the attention of the state on the general welfare of the population in the late nineteenth century and the conditions for childhood. Parton
) suggests one of the key factors which affected the relationship between the state and the general population was the increasing industrialisation/urbanisation of society and the emergence of a capitalist economy and intense agriculture. This was most notable during the industrial revolution, which saw the development of mass production methods requiring the steady supply of healthy workers into factories built in rapidly expanding cities across the country. Stewart
(1995, p. 93
) suggests this concern was also related to Britain’s global economic position, ‘Considerable concern was expressed in the 1900s about Britain’s child population amidst fears of ‘racial decline’ and imperial and economic competition. In particular, it was the children of the poor who appeared to present the greatest danger to Britain’s world position’. Another key factor was the growing concern regarding the general health of the nation, as conscription for the Boer War had proven that worrying numbers of the population were not ‘fighting fit’ (Foley 2001
) which could hamper the nation’s security and its ability to exercise its military strength in a global context. Lavalette and Cunningham
) noted there was also growing concern amongst the dominant class within Britain, about the threat of serious social disorder because of the rise of ‘unionism’ in response to the extent of poverty amongst the urban poor who were increasingly being exposed to the brutal realities of industrialisation. These factors contributed to the increasing interest of the state in the lives of its population, as Foucault notes ‘The art of government…is concerned with…how to introduce economy, that is the correct manner of managing individuals, goods and wealth…how to introduce this meticulous attention…into the management of the state’ (cited in Rabinow 1991, p. 18
). The focus of this interest increasingly fell on how the conditions for childhood were contributing to these social problems and how the state could intervene to ensure the supply of healthy citizens for commerce and national security and to avert the threat of social disorder. Therefore, the ‘objectification’ (Foucault 1982
) of the child provided the means by which the state could address many of these emerging social issues by locating the anomalies to ‘normal’ child development and treat them.
This interest in the conditions for childhood was also found in the growing child welfare movement which emerged during the industrial revolution and was driven by philanthropists such as Lord Shaftesbury who had become concerned about the conditions in which children were engaged in the labour market. The efforts of these social reformers cannot be underestimated however, as noted by Hendrick
(1997, p. 24
), even Lord Shaftesbury was influenced by the existing relationship between the state and the private family when asked about proposing legislation for child protection in 1881 he replied it was ‘of so private, internal and domestic a character as to be beyond the reach of legislation’. Hendrick
) stated that, in spite of the significant child welfare movement of the late nineteenth century, there existed a dualism in attitudes where ‘The child victim was nearly always seen as harbouring the possibility of another condition, one that was sensed to be threatening to moral fibre, sexual propriety, the sanctity of the family, the preservation of the race, law and order, and the wider reaches of citizenship’ (Hendrick 1997, p. 24
). The concept of the threat posed by this lack of the necessary morality in children became a significant discourse which sought to justify the state’s interest.
The emergence of the social sciences provided the tools for the state objectification of the child, as scientific inquiry was creating new knowledge on ‘normal’ physical and psychological child development. For Parton
(2006, p. 12
), ‘as the social body became subjected to new government norms, for example the registration of births, marriages, deaths, types and numbers of crimes, new realms of social visibility became the object of investigation’. Subsequently, the child became the subject of increasing levels of scrutiny, surveillance and observation in the clamour to claim new insights into the ‘nature’ of childhood. Rose
(1989, p. 45
) suggests ‘The modern child has become the focus of innumerable projects that purport to safeguard it from physical, sexual and moral danger, to ensure its ‘normal’ development, to actively promote certain capacities or attributes’. The growth of scientific rationality and the subsequent emergence of new technologies resulted in institutional sites (schools, hospitals and prisons) for this scrutiny, surveillance and observation which provided detailed knowledge on children and possible ways to intervene to tackle social problems (Parton 2006
). It became increasingly possible to articulate the ‘nature’ of normal development and the rationale for state intervention when this was not achieved.
Once the process of inquiry into human behaviour legitimises a social science-based knowledge of normal childhood or child development, it is then possible to move to the second mode of objectification of the child which focuses on ‘anomalies’ and, by utilising ‘dividing practices’, the subject is drawn out, classified, confined and contained as a member of a particular group (Foucault 1982
). This process operates to both formalise the state-approved purpose of childhood, i.e., to produce law abiding, hard-working, compliant adults and to locate ‘anomalies’ or ‘problem’ children who need treatment or correction to ensure they adhere to the required norm. This standardisation or ‘normalisation’ of childhood provided the opportunity for the state to maximise the potential of the national resource that babies and children represented (Foley 2001
). Subsequently, particular interest was paid to the social problems children pose and almost exclusively poor working-class children became the subject of the state’s attention as many social problems became attributed to them (Goldson 2002
; Hendrick 2003
). State interventions, as a result of delinquency or child neglect, through the process of observation, judgement and examination sought to elicit the truth about these problem poor working-class children and their necessary treatment in order to ensure that they adhered to the emerging dominant discourse that a ‘normal’ childhood would result in law abiding, hard-working and compliant adults.
4. Moral Salvation
In this theme, it is intended to explore how, through the process of objectifying the child, ‘dividing practices’ are used to classify, confine and contain ‘anomalies’ to normal child development. It will also consider how, through the ‘art of government’, these ‘anomalies’ are to be treated (Foucault 1982
). Once again, historical, political and social academic commentary will be utilised to locate the emergence of particular ‘discourses’ which sought to justify the governing of childhood through state-sponsored treatment.
Early examples of state intervention in the form of the poor laws, focused on the rescue and reclamation of children who were generally viewed with distaste having been exposed to moral faults such as dishonesty, idleness, lying and whose character was in desperate need of re-shaping (Hendrick 2003
). In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, poor law children were ‘boarded out’ as apprentices with the aim of preparing them for independence, employment and a morally upstanding adulthood (Hendrick 2003
). For Shaw and Frost
(2013, p. 22
), ‘The focus at all times was on the reformation of the abhorrent individual in the hope that in the right environment and with the correct instruction, they would renounce the ways of their parents and lead ‘decent’ law-abiding lives’. Later in the mid-nineteenth century, this instruction was provided in district schools for poor law children and in industrial schools for children who were found begging, suffering from parental neglect and/or beyond parental control. These institutions were designed to not only offer care and protection to the children, but to also insulate them from the contagion of ‘moral contamination’ (Goldson 2002
). These social problems were very much perceived as the consequence of individual failure and a lack of the necessary morality, which could be addressed by separating the child from the source of their contamination and re-educating them. The language of ‘moral contamination’ and the children’s need for character re-shaping is indicative of the early existence of a ‘normal’ child discourse and the state’s role in their rehabilitation.
However, poor working-class mothers were increasingly seen as responsible for these social problems and they were viewed as worthless and untrustworthy. This was even the case according to Foley
(2001, p. 12
), ‘when there were obvious reasons for the need for them to be cared for away from home, e.g., single mothers, especially if they had not been married, had no way of supporting themselves except through domestic service, which normally involved living in, with no possibility of taking the child with them’. This attitude was also apparent in the emigration programmes of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, which saw children shipped to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. For Hendrick
), this policy was driven by four principal reasons. Firstly, that it was cheaper to ship them than to provide them with care. Secondly, it would help reduce the numbers of the degenerate poor who posed a moral, economic and political danger to respectable society. Thirdly, it was an effective way of consolidating the enduring influence of the empire and finally it provided an effective way of rescuing these children from the damnation of the slums and the moral contamination of their parents. Hendrick
) notes that, in the state’s management of children needing alternative care, there is a long history of a policy of active severance from their ‘dissolute’ and ‘degenerative’ parents. He suggests that, in terms of ‘boarding out’, it was felt that ‘the severance of the child from any connection with its natural family was regarded as crucial for the success of the policy’ (Hendrick 2003, p. 42
). He goes on to explain that little attention was paid to the possibility that the child’s parents (with the support of public funds) may have been the best people to care for their children, such was the attitude towards these parents. For him, there was no evidence of any policy to rehabilitate these children to their parents. The focus on the working-class family as the cause of the child’s contamination came to play a key role in eliciting the truth about them and their necessary treatment (Foucault 1991
). The language used to describe the failure of the working-class mother reinforces the moral contamination discourse and acts to legitimise the intervention of the state. Increasingly, the working-class family became a crucial site for intervention and attention (Jones 2002
; Wyness 2006
). Working-class mothers were blamed for the bad management of their households, their ignorance concerning the care of children and their lack of a proper sense of maternal obligation. This language implied that ‘normal’ child development was the responsibility of the mother and she was to be held accountable for this by the state. Subsequently, ‘schools for mothers’ opened in the early part of the 20th century which provided guidance in appropriate ‘mothercraft’ (Foley 2001
). This complemented the existing work of charitable organisations, which saw middle-class women offering advice and guidance on the correct form of domestic organisation. For the middle-class mother, according to Parton
(2006, p. 14
), this ‘charitable work not only provided the opportunity to display the success of her husband but also furthered the notion of the idealised mother, and wife for working-class women to emulate’. This was part of wider state-sponsored programme in which the modern private family was to emerge as a key site for addressing social problems and the social adjustment of the individual was to become the required outcome of satisfactory family life (Parton 2006
). The state-approved private nuclear family became charged with the moral and social guidance of their children, as it was felt that ‘natural bonds of love and affection between mother and child were also likely to be seen as an insurance against criminality’ (Wyness 2006, p. 97
) and other social problems. Many of the social problems which the working-class mother and her family were charged with addressing could easily be attributed to the widespread poverty, unemployment and hardship of the time; however the state was determined to locate the responsibility for these problems with the working-class family (Goldson 2002
; Jones 2002
; Foley 2001
). Lavalette and Cunningham
(2002, p. 21
) noted ‘the dominant class focused on the need to pursue a ‘remoralising’ agenda that focused on the control of the unruly working-class youth and the promotion of a set of family values to curb disorder and family breakdown’. Subsequent legislative changes such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act of 1889 enabled coercive intervention in the form of the threat and removal of children to stimulate the process of conforming to these new family norms. The deficient child was the cause of a deficient family unable to provide the love and guidance necessary to produce a morally upstanding citizen.
The state increasingly saw the modern family as the site for the appropriate moral guidance of the child to ensure their ‘normal’ development and in instances where this was not taking place the assumption was that the family/parents/mother was dysfunctional. Subsequently, those poor working-class mothers who became the subject of the state’s attention became classified as lacking the necessary skills/attributes to undertake this key task without guidance around how to adhere to the emerging ideal form of motherhood (increasingly modelled on middle-class mothers). Those poor working-class mothers perceived by the state as not being able to adhere to the desired norms, became classified as a potential threat to the child in the form of their ‘moral contamination’. As such, policies of severance from the family were pursued as essential to the child’s reformation and reclamation. Therefore, the dominant discourse, which locates the lack of morality as the cause of these social problems and identifies the family as the site of both this contamination and the child’s salvation, seems to make significant assumptions about the needs of the child in terms of its necessary treatment. The reparation of the child’s moral fibre could only be undertaken in normal loving family environment.
The growing interest of the state in childhood appeared to be motivated in the main by the desire to ensure maximum value could be secured from this human capital through what Foucault
) called ‘the art of government’. The emergence of the social sciences enabled the ‘anomalies’, i.e., those children who were not conforming to the state’s expectations of ‘normal’ child development, to be ‘divided out’ and classified as vulnerable to the threat of ‘moral contamination’, which was resulting in the social problems of delinquency, poor health and neglect. These children became the subject of state intervention, with the focus on treatment to enable them to resume their moral responsibility to become law-abiding, hard working, independent and compliant adults. In terms of Foucault’s theories of objectification of the subject, the ‘looked after child’ having been identified as an anomaly to normal child development, has become the subject of classification and so have their needs. That is, through the process of objectifying these children, assumptions have been made that their needs are similar or uniform. Therefore, through the process of objectification and ‘dividing practices’, moral contamination has been located as the reason for their need for public care and therefore moral salvation and guidance is the solution. It is at this point that the state utilises the influential work of Bowlby, Winnicott and Isaacs to promote foster care as the best alternative if a child had to be separated from their parents to support their moral and social development (Packman 1975
). Subsequently, the state sought to justify its treatment of these children and young people through state-sponsored ‘alternative family’ parenting, i.e., foster care to address their ‘moral contamination’.