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Key publications on looked after children

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April 2012

A reading list of key publications on looked after children, one of the NSPCC's seven themes.

Report from the joint inquiry into children who go missing from care 
London: The Children's Society, 2012
This joint All Party Parliamentary inquiry examines the issues around children who go missing from care and how they can be better protected, and was set up in response to recent concerns about the care and support they currently receive. Found problems around data quality and collection, quality and stability of care placements, quality of care homes and professionals, identification of abuse in children's homes, and trafficking. All of these factors were found to contribute to the problem. The Inquiry concluded that the system was not fit for purpose and sets out a number of recommendations. Read our A summary the report from the joint inquiry into children who go missing from care.

Findings from research with looked after children
London: NSPCC, 2012
Recent research shows that many children have had positive experiences of being in care, and that the opportunity to remain with carers until the age of 21 can be beneficial. The main findings of three recent reports looking at children’s views of being in, and leaving care are summarised below.

Returning home from care: what's best for children
London: NSPCC, 2012
This NSPCC report examines the issues around children returning home from care. It looks at how we can address the problems of reunification and outlines innovative new approaches to support children returning home from care and protect them from harm.

Edging away from care: how services successfully prevent young people entering care (PDF).
Manchester: OFSTED, 2011
Analyses a small sample of local authorities and their partner agencies and looks at how they successfully supported young people who were at risk of entering care to remain living at home. It draws on the experiences and views of 43 families, including those of the young people themselves, their parents or carers and the key professionals and managers who were involved in coordinating and providing support services. The case studies used in this report illustrate aspects of good practice in a particular area and are not intended to suggest that practice was exemplary in every aspect.
Read our briefing: A summary of "Edging away from care: how services successfully prevent young people entering care".

Messages for Munro: a report of children's views collected for Professor Eileen Munro by the Children's Rights Director for England (PDF).
Office of the Children's Rights Director
London: OFSTED, 2011
Reports on the views of 179 children in care and care leavers gathered to inform Professor Eileen Munro's review of the child protection system in England (Munro, 2011). Children were asked questions about their social workers such as whether they felt they provided enough information and whether they were easy to contact. Other questions explored empowerment and participation, asking children whether they felt they were able to influence and express themselves in decisions made about their care.

Looked after children talking to ChildLine.
Hutchinson, Dustin
London: NSPCC, 2011
Draws directly on the views and experiences of children who contacted ChildLine between April 2009 and March 2010, providing a unique insight into the lives and feelings of children in care. Findings included that: looked after children counselled by ChildLine described the deeply unsettling nature of frequently moving placements, making it hard for them to build trusting relationships; many found relationships with other looked  after children difficult with these relationships sometimes characterised by bullying, intimidation and physical abuse; and that in 2009/10, looked after children counselled by ChildLine were five times more likely to discuss running away as children counselled by ChildLine overall and were twice as likely to discuss self-harm.

The care of looked after children in custody: a short thematic review (PDF).
London: HM Inspectorate of Prisons, 2011
Looks at the care of looked after children in custody, based on interviews with young people and staff at all 12 youth offender institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales. Explores how well young offender institutions work together with local authorities and youth offending services to ensure children's needs are met whilst in custody and on release. Found that it is often unclear where the responsibility for looked after children in custody lies. Makes recommendations, including that there should be a designated social worker within each YOI to implement agreed procedures for looked after children.

Maltreated children in the looked after system: a comparison of outcomes for those who go home and those who do not (PDF).
Wade, Jim, Biehal, Nina, Farrelly, Nicola and Sinclair, Ian
London: Department for Education, 2010
Executive summary of study comparing the progress and outcomes maltreated children who either went home or remained in the looked after system.  The care pathways of 3,872 looked after children were examined and a closer look at 68 abused children who returned home and 81 who stayed in care.  Findings look at similarities in children's backgrounds, entry to the care system and care pathways.  Looks at which maltreated children go home, planning and decision-making, children's safety, stability and well-being at follow-up.  Considers the implications for policy and practice.

Case management and outcomes for neglected children returned to their parents: a five year follow-up study (PDF).
Farmer, Elaine and Lutman, Eleanor
[London]: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), 2010
Research examining the case management, interventions and outcomes of neglected children over five years from the point of first referral to children's social care services. Also investigates which factors are related to outcomes for children at the five year follow-up point; explores how far parents and children engage with professional interventions; and considers whether there are particular issues in cases of neglect which make the work more complex or demanding.

Research into private fostering (PDF).
Shaw, Catherine, Brodie, Isabelle, Ellis, Anthony, Graham, Berni, Mainey, Amanda and Willmott, Natasha, and Sousa, Savita de
[London]: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), 2010
Literature review and survey of stakeholders and child care professionals to collect evidence of the practices and procedures of local authorities in relation to private fostering arrangements. Also considers the characteristics and needs of privately fostered children. Concludes that because of the difficulties in defining what private fostering actually is, many people do not know that arrangements needed to be reported to local authorities. Increasing awareness was seen as crucial in safeguarding children who are often vulnerable.

Maltreatment and allegations of maltreatment in foster care: a review of the evidence (PDF).
Biehal, Nina and Parry, Elizabeth
York: University of York, 2010
Literature review of research into allegations of abuse against foster carers and confirmed maltreatment of foster children.  Looks at the impact of allegations, the number of allegations and the number of confirmed cases of abuse in the UK, USA and Australia.  Considers evidence on perpetrators and victims. Looks at the nature and severity of maltreatment in foster care compared with other settings.  Discusses thresholds for defining poor parenting.  Concludes that the evidence on unfounded allegations against foster carers and of actual maltreatment in foster care is limited and inconclusive.

Bursting at the seams: impact on fostering services of the rise of children going into care 2009-10 (PDF).
Clarke, Helen
London: Fostering Network, 2010
A study to explore whether fostering services experienced an increase in requests for foster placements after the death of Baby Peter Connelly.  Describes interviews with 76 fostering services in England, Scotland and Wales and an online survey of 307 foster carers.  Findings highlight the challenges facing fostering services to find the right foster families. Issues raised include the Southwark Judgement, managing placements, finding long-term placements and future planning. Presents recommendations to improve the availability of foster carers.

Life in secure care: a report by the Children's Rights Director for England (PDF).
London: OFSTED, 2009
Children living in secure units were asked about their experience of living in security, by going through a set of questions which covered each of the main headings in this report. The children were asked about the best and worst aspects of living in a secure unit, the staff, advice for future secure units, safety and dangers of security, bullying, education, health, and preparing for life after security. The same questions were asked in each group.

Reunification of children in out-of-home care to birth parents or relatives: a synthesis of the evidence on processes, practice and outcomes (PDF).
Expertise für das projekt: pflegekinderhilfe in Deutschland
Thoburn, June
Munich: Deutsches Jugendinstitut, 2009
Reviews the evidence for improving services to children returning from public out-of-home care to their birth families.  Draws on a study of data on children in care in 14 countries with well-developed child welfare systems (Thoburn, 2007).  Reviews the English language practice and research literature (mostly the UK and USA but some European research published in English).

Kinship care for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children removed from the home for maltreatment: review.
Winokur, M., Holtan, A., Valentine, D. and the Cochrane Collaboration
[Hoboken, N.J.]: Wiley, 2009
Presents findings from a systematic review which aimed to evaluate the effect of kinship care placement on the safety, permanency, and well-being of children removed from the home for maltreatment. Results suggest that children in kinship foster care experience better behavioural development, mental health functioning, and placement stability than do children in non-kinship foster care. Although there was no difference on reunification rates, children in non-kinship foster care were more likely to be adopted while children in kinship foster care were more likely to be in guardianship. Children in non-kinship foster care were also found to be more likely to use mental health services. Findings support the practice of treating kinship care as a viable out-of-home placement option for children removed from the home for maltreatment.

Promoting the quality of life of looked-after children and young people (PDF).
[London]: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2010
Aims to improve quality of life of looked-after children. The focus is on ensuring organisations, professionals and carers work together to deliver high quality care, stable placements and nurturing relationships for looked-after children. The recommendations set out how agencies and services in a complex, multi-agency environment can improve the quality of life for looked-after children. The recommendations cover local strategy and commissioning, multi-agency working, care planning and placements, and timely access to appropriate health and mental health services.

Towards safer organisations: adults who pose a risk to children in the workplace and implications for recruitment and selection.
Erooga, Marcus
London: NSPCC, 2009
Presents the key findings of a review of the literature on child abuse in organisations. Aims to inform methods of recruitment in settings where staff or volunteers may come into contact with children. Draws on interviews with relevant professionals and a small sample of convicted child sex offenders. Discusses Government-led initiatives such as the Vetting and Barring scheme due to be rolled out in late 2009 as well as other screening methods that are necessary to safeguard children effectively.

A review of safeguarding in the secure estate (PDF).
Youth Justice Board and NCB
[London]: Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, 2008
Presents findings from a review of safeguarding which was undertaken in order to identify what needs to be done to ensure the safety of children and young people under the age of 18 within Young Offender Institutions (YOIs), Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Secure Children's Homes in England and Wales. The aim of the review was to highlight general themes that would inform a programme of development and improvement rather than to inspect or audit individual establishments.

Missing out: a study of child trafficking in the North-West, North-East and West Midlands (PDF).
Beddoe, Christine
London: ECPAT UK, 2007
Reports on findings from an investigation concerning 80 children known or suspected of being trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and forced marriage. 48 of these children have gone missing from social services care and have never been found. Argues that there is an urgent need for a system of guardianship to be established, where separated children, especially those suspected of being trafficked, are allocated a guardian who ensures appropriate services are provided to the child and who has statutory responsibility to advocate of the child's behalf.

'Someone of your own to love': experiences of being looked after as influences on teenage pregnancy.
Knight, Abigail, Chase, Elaine and Aggleton, Peter
Children and Society 20(5), November 2006: 391-403
Examines how experiences of being looked after may contribute to teenage pregnancy. The young people interviewed reported feelings of loneliness, rejection, stigma and not being able to trust others, emotions which seriously influenced their decisions about becoming parents. Findings suggest that such young people may benefit from more emotional and practical support.
Freely view abstract or access full text by subscription: Children and Society 20(5): 391-403

Safeguarding disabled children in residential special schools.
Paul, Alina, Cawson, Pat and Paton, Joni
London: NSPCC, 2004
Reports on research into two aspects of life in residential special schools: child protection procedures, including the existence of policy statements and systems to prevent abuse; and practice - the way in which procedures and policies were implemented in the day to day care of children.  Includes findings on child protection awareness, training, communication, affection and sexuality, and behaviour management in the schools.  Identifies that the close involvement of senior managers in day to day care, with strong leadership and support, are the best safeguards for good practice.

Going missing from residential and foster care: linking biographies and contexts.
Biehal, Nina and Wade, Jim
British Journal of Social Work 30(2), 2000: 211-225
Looks at the patterns of young people going missing from foster and residential placements. Different patterns were identified for those who went missing to be with friends or family as compared to those who ran away, the latter group tending to place themselves at greater risk.
Freely view abstract or access full text by subscription: British Journal of Social Work 30(2): 211-225

To find more publications search the  NSPCC Library Online using the subject term "children in care"

Contact the NSPCC Information Service for tailored information on any child protection topic