It is well known that most children who come into care have been seriously neglected or abused, and are more likely to experience poor mental health, yet little information is available on how corporate parents (local authorities) track the emotional wellbeing of the children in their care.
Experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing can have long term negative effects on the life chances of care leavers. This includes lower levels of educational attainment, unemployment, and living in poor quality housing or being homeless. We believe that all children, and particularly our most vulnerable, should have the opportunity to flourish and support to enable them to do so.
With over 70,000 children in care in England, and the numbers rising steadily since 2009, we believe it vital for corporate parents to have clear and effective tools to assess the mental health of children in their care, and the right resources to support them.
In order to understand the tools, measures and indicators currently in use, we started our research with a thorough review of existing literature including Bright Spots from Coram Voice and University of Bristol, The Good Childhood index from the Children’s Society and research reports from NSPCC.
We then launched a survey and undertook telephone interviews with professionals working with children in care in England to understand how they measure children’s wellbeing. We contacted a number of organisations for assistance, including the Royal College of Nursing and British Association of Social Workers. We had 114 people respond to our survey.
The views of children in care were sought through Children in Care Councils. Twelve local authority officers with responsibility for Children in Care Councils were contacted for the research. We requested them to ask questions on wellbeing and measures of wellbeing to the children and young people who participate in their Councils.
We are currently reviewing the information we collected and expect to publish our findings in Autumn 2017.