Alternatives to Custody for Young Offenders - Developing Intensive and Remand Fostering Programmes


This 2-year international project is led by BAAF in the UK, with six partner agencies in four other European countries, and focuses on remand and intensive fostering as alternatives to custody for young offenders. Running from January 2013 to December 2014, the project is a co-financed programme under the EC’s ‘Daphne III’ child-friendly justice initiative.

Its goal is to develop a clear and usable European good practice model for intensive and remand fostering for young offenders, based squarely on ‘what works’ taken from research and good social work practice about the benefits of alternative family care compared to the negatives of custody. The work will be shaped by a busy programme of qualitative research undertaken in our partner countries, and by a continuous international exchange of ideas and experience between partner agencies. A key priority will be ensuring the active involvement of custody and care experienced young people in the development of the model.

The model is structured around three ‘work streams’ – research; mutual learning; dissemination and sustainability – and will include a training programme and briefing documents designed to be effective tools for multi-agency networks in particular foster carers, fostering and youth justice staff, criminal justice and police personnel. This will include proposed core minimum standards; practice guidelines; and information designed for young people.

All the partner agencies are passionately committed to the comprehensive set of rights for children and young people established by the UNCRC. In particular we advocate the principle that detention is a measure of last resort for children in conflict with the law, and that the rehabilitative potential of remand and intensive fostering as alternatives to custodial sentencing is considerable. Underlying the project, and the EC’s Daphne III programme itself, is the emerging concept of ‘child-friendly justice’ that aims to nurture a positive sense of justice in young offenders by respecting their human rights and needs as young people.

The custodial experience itself can exacerbate young people’s problems by severing positive ties with their families and wider community and bringing additional trauma. Reconviction rates after custody remain high - the UK government itself noting recently that 73% of young offenders released from custody re-offend within 12 months. Young offenders have exceptional needs for education, support and integration into society and community, and here foster care can play a critical role in the processes of learning and empowerment that alone can lead to a positive sense of citizenship. With the very promising evidence  in England of how intensive fostering   has a much better track record than custody in reducing  re-offending, and the Government’s declaration that a custodial sentence should  only be made where alternatives cannot be justified,  it is a matter of concern that intensive fostering  is still in such short supply as an option for the Courts.

All our partner agencies want to expand mainstream and innovative practice in fostering, and to explore and advocate for alternative family care-based options within their youth justice systems. But currently their systems lack the capacity or the legal mechanisms for providing such alternatives to courts and to youth justice decision makers. These are some of the challenges our project will endeavour to combat.

Partner and Associate Agencies


  • Partner 1. Eurochild - Belgium
  • Partner 2. International Juvenile Justice Observatory -Belgium
  • Partner 3. A National Voice - UK
  • Partner 4. Family Child Youth Association - Hungary
  • Partner 5. National Network for Children - Bulgaria
  • Partner 6. Social Activities and Practices Institute - Bulgaria
  • Partner 7. Università del Salento – Department of Law -Italy
  • Associate a. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea -UK
  • Associate b. Budapest Child Protection Agency - Hungary
  • Associate c. Sofia Municipality – Bulgaria