A child who is being looked after by the local authority is known as a child in care or "looked after".

Some children are placed in care voluntarily by parents struggling to cope. In other cases children's services will have intervened because a child was at risk of significant harm.

Children in care can be

  • living with foster parents
  • at home with their parents under the supervision of social services
  • in residential children's homes
  • other residential settings like schools or secure units.

In UK law children in care are referred to as "looked after children".

Read more about children in care

Risk factors

Most children who are in care live safely but a small number do experience harm. There are a number of risk factors related to being in care which can make children more at risk of abuse and neglect.

Read more about risk factors

If you think a child is in immediate danger

Don't delay – call the police on 999,
or call us on 0808 800 5000, straight away.

What can we do to help protect children in care

Care is a vital part of our child protection system. Children in care should have the same opportunities as their peers, including being healthy and safe, and given the opportunity to move successfully into adulthood.

Caring for the most vulnerable children in care requires a wider, more coherent, strategy that improves therapeutic support in care, increases stability and ensures systematic and sustained improvement across the care system.

  • better support for children on the edge of care. More services supporting families struggling with problems like domestic abuse, substance abuse and mental health issues
  • better evidence and assessment of whether and when to take children into care
  • to ensure that care is seen as an effective part of our child protection system - not the last resort for children
  • more therapeutic support for children in care
  • to protect children in care from further harm
  • better assessment, support and monitoring of children returning home from care.

Our services

Face to Face

Improving the emotional well-being of children in care, or who may go into care, by helping them find solutions to problems affecting their lives.
Face to Face service

Safeguarding Through Advocacy

Helping children and young people in care have their say about decisions that affect their lives.
Safeguarding Through Advocacy service

Taking Care

Helping to make sure children only return home from care when it’s safe and with the right support.
Taking Care service

What we do to protect children in care

  • We want to make sure that looked after children receive the help and support they need to thrive.
  • We work in partnership with children and young people, carers and professionals, local authorities, health services and other agencies to identify and develop the most effective practice.
  • We also campaign for policy change where it is needed.
  • We provide a number of services for children in care.
  • There is a lot of work to be done and we will continue to work with children and young people, care providers and decision makers to improve practice and share what we learn.

Improving the care system for children

Tom Rahilly leads our work on protecting children who are taken into care. Listen to him talk about the care system, how we support children in care and what improvements need to be made:

 

Child Protection System

Our child protection system pages set out how to report child protection concerns, the referral and investigation process, care proceedings, case reviews, statistics, legislation, policy and guidance and research for each of the four nations.

More about the child protection system

Donate now

Our services are helping turn lives around. Your gift can help rebuild lives, and prevent abuse from ruining any more.

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Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Contact us