Taking Care evaluation The return home and short-term outcomes for looked after children

Woman and two children smilingThe most common outcome for a child who has left the care system is to return back to the care of a parent or relative. However, without the right assessment and support, many of these children end up back in care. Taking Care is a new approach to helping social workers plan the support needed for both the child and the family to prepare for a successful return home.

We worked with 8 local authorities to test the process, using various forms of data collection including a staff survey and a qualitative evaluation from Loughborough University. This report focuses on analysis of case files of children who returned home under Taking Care to help us understand what happened once they were reunited with their families. This is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Author: Chloe Gill
Published: 2016

Whilst working with the eight local authorities, the cases of 277 children were assessed to see whether the children could be safely returned home. Decisions were made about 226 children and as a result, 47 children were returned home.

Findings from an analysis of case files for the 47 children who returned home under Taking Care included:

  • all 47 children who returned to live with their parents did so with children's services involvement and with a reunification plan in place
  • factors outlined in the Taking Care practice framework to support a return home were apparent to some degree across all the files of children who returned home
  • almost all children who returned home remained at home after 6 months
  • after 6 months at home child protection concerns for many of the children had declined
  • social workers and NSPCC practitioners continued to provide regular support and monitoring visits
  • some children and families retained significant ongoing needs. With continued regular support and monitoring from social workers, these children were able to safely remain at home. In many cases, the support had successfully helped parents understand how their behaviour had impacted negatively on their children and make progress in prioritising their needs.
Acknowledgments 4
Key findings: young people's version 5
Key findings 6
Executive summary 8
Chapter 1: Introduction 12
Chapter 2: Taking Care service reach 16
Chapter 3: Assessment and reunification 19
Chapter 4: Support for reunification 25
Chapter 5: Post-reunification progress 32
Chapter 6: Conclusion 35
Bibliography 39
Appendix A: Case studies 40
Appendix B: Case file analysis variables 58

Please cite as: Gill, C.  (2016) Taking Care evaluation: the return home and short-term outcomes for looked after children. London: NSPCC.

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