8. When a child or young person becomes 'looked after' the state assumes duties and responsibilities to safeguard and promote their welfare and wellbeing. A wide range of legislation, regulation and guidance provides the framework within which actions take place, but the end-purpose of all of them is the same: to secure nurturing, positive childhoods, from which these vulnerable young people can develop into successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
9. Yet despite the extensive framework of law and policy, many looked after children and care leavers experience some of the poorest personal outcomes of any group in Scotland. Low levels of educational engagement and achievement feed into high levels of poverty, homelessness and poor mental health.  Rates of suicide and self-harm are higher than that of the general population.  In 2013 a third of young offenders had been in care at some point in their childhood. 
10. The needs of looked after children and care leavers are often complex, reflecting backgrounds of trauma, loss and instability. Some have physical and/or mental / learning disabilities. Safeguarding and promoting their welfare and wellbeing can, therefore, be challenging. But since national records began in 1981 the total number of looked after children and care leavers (eligible for services) have never exceeded more than 0.5% of the total Scottish population.  In view of Scotland's considerable human and financial resources, we can and must do better for these vulnerable children and young people.
11. Corporate parenting represents the principles and duties on which improvements can be made for these young people. The term refers to an organisation's performance of actions necessary to uphold the rights and secure the wellbeing of a looked after child or care leaver, and through which physical, emotional, spiritual, social and educational development is promoted, from infancy through to adulthood. In other words, corporate parenting is about certain organisations listening to the needs, fears and wishes of children and young people, and being proactive and determined in their collective efforts to meet them. It is a role which should complement and support the actions of parents, families and carers, working with these key adults to deliver positive change for vulnerable children. In 2008 the Scottish Government and Local Authorities confirmed their commitment to the approach in These Are Our Bairns: A Guide for Community Planning Partnerships on Being a Good Corporate Parent. The Scottish Government has now decided to build on this policy, extending corporate parenting duties to a wider group of public bodies and establishing statutory requirements for corporate parents to plan and report on their activities.
12. The purpose of this guidance is to clarify the duties of corporate parents, and explain the rationale behind them. It is designed to support corporate parents to turn Part 9 of the Act into practice which improves outcomes for looked after children and care leavers. The purpose of the Act as a whole is explained, and definitions set out for terms frequently used in this guidance (such as 'looked after child'). Each duty is then considered in a short, separate chapter, with links made to other relevant guidance and / or legislation where appropriate. A chapter on 'outcomes from corporate parenting' provides guidance on where corporate parents should concentrate their efforts, in respect to children and young people's rights and wellbeing. There are also chapters on dispute resolution, and interactions between corporate parents and birth parents. Appendix A sets Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) in the wider legislative context for looked after children and care leavers. Appendix B provides further background information on the policy of corporate parenting. Appendix C contains a reference list of useful resources and further information, which will assist in the implementation of Part 9 (corporate parenting).
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