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Children in care being returned to abusive homes

Hundreds of children currently going into care will be sent back to abusive family homes without the support needed to keep them safe from harm.

The most common outcome for children leaving care is, by far, to be returned home to their family. Figures show that around half of the abused or neglected children who enter care each year are abused or neglected again when they return home. A third suffer repeated but failed attempts to reintegrate them into their family.

Adoption is only an outcome for a small minority of children who go into care, as currently less than one in 20 are adopted. Focussing on the far higher number who return home would have a substantial impact on reducing repeated harm.

Tom Rahilly, NSPCC Head of Strategy & Development for Looked After Children, said:  "Local authorities are doing a very challenging job and have to make tough decisions every day. Care does provide a safe and supportive environment for some of our most vulnerable children and can be the right option in many cases. The trauma caused to children who are abused, go into care, and are then abused again when they return home is unimaginable.

"Evidence shows that the wrong decision is being made in far too many cases. Without the right checks and parental support, most children go back to square one and can suffer significant long-term harm."

We are testing a new service to ensure children who are reunited with their families are not abused or neglected again. What we learn will be shared with local authorities and agencies to help improve practice across the UK.

In May, we are bringing professionals, policy makers and children in care together to work with us on a review of the role of care in protecting and supporting children.

Further reading

Press release: NSPCC warns children in care are being returned to abusive homes
Returning home from care: what's best for children (PDF, 2.47MB)
Priorities: Looked after children
Information for professionals


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