Taking Care Deciding whether children should return home from care

Children and young people now awardsMoving from care back to their family and back to care is really disruptive for children and can cause all sorts of problems, such as:

  • long-term harm to their mental health
  • difficulties forming relationships
  • not doing as well at school.

Children can be successfully and safely reunited with parents who have been abusive or neglectful in the past. Taking Care is designed to make the right decision about whether, and when, children should return home.If children have to return to care then local authority costs are increased in the short and long term. Children can also develop serious problems such as drug or alcohol dependency or mental health problems which can increase their need for support later in life as well.

Our aim is to protect children from further abuse or neglect when they’re reunited with their birth families after being in care.

How it works

We’re working with 6 local authorities to test new guidance which helps social workers make assessments, decisions and plan for a child’s return home from care.

We developed this new approach in partnership with the Centre for Children and Family Research at Loughborough University.

The aim of Taking Care is to make sure that returning a child home from care is in their best interests. Social workers develop an agreement with the child's parents, setting out the changes they need to make before the child is returned home.

Taking Care helps social workers plan the support needed for the child and the family to prepare for a successful return home. Once the child is back with their family, social workers stay in contact to make sure that everything is OK.

Where is Taking Care available?

We are working with 6 local authorities in England to pilot the new guidance.

Maria’s story

Maria* experienced domestic violence before coming to the UK with her children Victoria*(15), Sophia*(14) and David*(12).

When she arrived, Maria didn’t speak English and felt alone. Sophia was taken into care because she was exhibiting extreme behaviours.

NSPCC practitioner Emma* conducted an assessment using the Reunification Practice Framework.

NSPCC practitioner Emma said:
“I had to assess the likelihood of Sophia suffering significant harm using factors in the framework. I could see the relationship between Maria and Sophia was strained - Maria was regularly in tears in the sessions and was despairing.  

“I considered whether Maria was able to follow positive parenting techniques and think about things from her children’s perspective. The family had moved house, which gave Maria the space to apply herself. I felt that Maria had the insight, intelligence and capacity to learn and change, so recommended that Sophia should return home.

“Maria and I made a plan to reduce her feelings of helplessness and improve her confidence. Maria’s English improved and she got a job. She was still vulnerable, but growing in strength.

“The family are doing well now. All the children are in full time education. The relationship between Maria and Sophia has changed beyond recognition - they respect each other and get on well. They’ve learnt how to negotiate and compromise. There’s a strong feeling that Maria is mum and it’s understood that if she says something then she’s saying it for a reason. They have a strong bond.”

Using the Practice Framework

The Framework I used with Maria has all of the factors in one table. Although it’s not all encompassing, the framework is really useful. It encourages practitioners to think of strengths and protective factors and gives a structure.

It’s a great evidence informed model and it focusses on relationship building which was really key in Maria’s case.

*Names and identifying features have been changed to protect individuals’ identities

Children in care

Find out about our work with looked after children, the challenges in care and what the law says.
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Evaluating the impact

Find out how we're evaluating Taking Care.

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Our services help children and families who need support. With your help, we can make sure even more children are free from abuse and free to dream. 

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