"...it is evident from the effectiveness reviews undertaken for this guidance that there is a lack of robust, adequately controlled, studies completed to a high standard. Consequently, the UK evidence base does not serve the needs of looked after children and young people as well as it might". ( NICE, 2010: 89)
"...there have been few studies which have attempted to estimate the prevalence of mental disorder among looked after children and those which have concentrated on a particular geographical area and have relatively small samples". (Meltzer, 2003)
"There is a particular problem in the area of the link between CAMHS and adult mental health services. Many care leavers fall through the gap between these two services, being too old for CAMHS help and too young to be suitable for adult mental health services". (Care Leavers Association, 2007).
"...It was quite hard because I was just given the keys, and the flat was really, really bad and nothing was working, and he council was just like 'here's the keys, here's some vouchers for decoration, now beat it' - that was their kind of attitude" (Care Leaver quoted in Jackson et al. 2005)
Almost a quarter of young men and half of young women in police custody report some history of corporate care (HM Inspectorate of Prisons - Youth Justice Board, 2009). An inquiry carried out by the Howard League for Penal Reform into the use of prison custody for teenage girls found that 40% of 15-17-year-olds had been in care (Russell, 1998).
Building positive relationship with young people is a huge asset to them and many young people after leaving care list specific residential care workers as hugely positive influences in their lives. (Jonathan Stanley, NCERCC)
In 2009 the average number of care leavers aged 19 in employment, education or training in England was 63%. In Torbay, however, the leaving care service achieved an astonishing 93.3%. The London borough of Wandsworth and Southend on Sea borough council achieved similarly impressive results with 81.5% and 80.6%. (Who Cares Trust)
Outcomes for care leavers are extremely diverse. For many, the care experience may have been positive; providing a secure and caring environment repairing the damage from a life less ordinary. Their care experience may have prepared them for the transition to independent living, maximising the chances of realising their potential as they move in to adulthood and beyond. However, for some the experience may have been less positive and their adult lives are far from ideal.
The challenge is to try and understand what factors contribute to these diverse trajectories; what experiences and interventions separate the outcomes of care leavers? Why does one become a career criminal and another the barrister representing them?
Previous research in to care leavers has largely relied on data collected from small convenient samples – often in single geographic areas. Care leavers who have experienced significantly negative outcomes are overlooked, for example those who have become homeless, imprisoned or involved in prostitution. Thanks to the overwhelming support from a number or organisations within the sector, the Outcomes of Care study will purposefully sample care leavers who find themselves in these environments to try and learn more about their journey.
This research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is primarily focused on care leavers who experienced residential care. But for purposes of comparison, information will be collected from any care leaver who would like to participate - whatever the placement history during their care experience.
To evaluate the outcomes of those care leavers sampled, and guide this study, a resilience framework will be used. This will contribute to our understanding of the differing life trajectories care leavers experience. As a framework, resilience looks at the dynamic process where individuals display positive adaptation despite significant adversity or trauma, something that all care leavers have experienced.
The results of this research will contribute to the ongoing policy debate surrounding looked after children and young people. The findings will be of value to both policy makers and practitioners as they jointly face the challenge to do more for less in the current economic climate.
The strength and success of this study is reliant on a large number of people responding so...
If you are a care leaver: I really need your help! I need as many care leavers as possible to participate in the research. Less than 30 minutes of your time will contribute to a fuller understanding of what will help other care leavers reach their potential and experience a positive outcome.
Please click on the care leaver participate button on the right.
If you are from an organisation: Statutory or otherwise, that works with or is a resource for care leavers you have a vital part to play both in facilitating and participating in the research.
Please click on the organisation participate button on the right.