Does being in care provide protection or increase risk? Understanding the outcomes of children in care
Professor Janet Boddy will talk about the European Perspectives on Outcomes and Everyday Lives for Young People in Care project. Transitions to adulthood for young people in and after care are a priority in child welfare research internationally, not least because of concern across countries about poor outcomes relative to the general population. But young people in care comprise a diverse group. To support them into adulthood, it is not sufficient to focus on risk factors. At the same time, definition of ‘outcomes’ is neither neutral nor objective, and what we come to understand about ‘outcomes’ for young people in care inevitably depends on our theoretical and methodological approach. This paper draws on two studies which are concerned with the experiences of young people who are currently, or have previously been, in care.
Professor Donald Forrester will explore the specific impact of care through a review of British research since 1991 that provides data on changes in child welfare over time. The outcomes for children in public care are generally considered to be poor, leading to a focus on reducing the number of children in care. Yet while children in care do less well than most children on a range of measures, such comparisons do not disentangle the extent to which these difficulties predated care and the specific impact of care on child welfare. Internationally, studies consistently have found that children entering care tended to have serious problems but that in general their welfare improved over time suggesting that attempts to reduce the use of public care may place more children at risk of serious harm.