How Does the Well-Being of Children in Foster Care in Wales Compare with that of other Welsh Children?

Well-being is meant to be at the heart of services for children and adults in Wales – yet there is little research on the wellbeing of children in care. How happy and satisfied are children in care in Wales – particularly compared to other children?

This seminar reports on research comparing children in care with a much larger group of other children in Wales to answer questions about how satisfied they are with life and what factors influence whether they are happy. It compares the wellbeing of 22 children in foster care aged 10-13 with a large national sample of 2627 other children.

This is as far as we are aware the first research able to make such a comparison, and the large sample allows us to explore not just care but also the impact of other factors such as deprivation. The findings were interesting and unexpected. This seminar will present initial findings and then open up a discussion about how we might help improve the wellbeing of children in care and the importance of considering subjective wellbeing alongside more “objective” measures such as educational achievement.

Presenters: Dr Jen Hampton (WISERD), Professor Colette McAuley (CASCADE)  Professor Donald Forrester (CASCADE Director) Cardiff University.

Date & Time: September 15th, 12pm

What difference does local authority care make to the lives of vulnerable children? Longitudinal analyses of a retrospective electronic cohort

The proposed research aims to examine, over time, education and health outcomes of children who are looked after (CLA) by the local authority (i.e. in care). Existing studies that use only one point in time have shown that CLA have poorer educational and health outcomes than the general population. Pre-care experiences, such as physical abuse, parental mental health illness and parental alcohol misuse, are common reasons for becoming looked after. These experiences also predict poorer health, education and social outcomes in young people who are not in care. For these reasons, it is difficult to understand whether poorer health and educational outcomes for CLA are because of differences in pre-care experiences, or of care itself. 

This research, for the first time, linked an existing Wales-wide dataset on education and health with routinely collected data on young people’s support from social services. The research is exploring three objectives. First, addresses the lack of large-scale studies in the UK that statistically examine the role of CLA status in predicting educational outcomes and health over time. Second, it will reduce uncertainty over the extent to which poor outcomes among CLA are because of pre-care experiences, or experiences of being in care. This will be achieved through comparison between CLA, and children who receive help from social services but are not CLA (Children In Need, but Not Looked After – NLA). There are likely to be differences between these two groups that predict why one group becomes CLA and the other does not, but NLA are likely to be more similar to CLA than children not known to services. To take account of some further differences between groups, we will adjust for physical abuse, parental mental health illness, parental alcohol misuse and domestic violence. Third, whilst CLA status is often based on the assumption that removing young people from adversity will move them toward better life trajectories, this study will be the first to examine over time the role of care in reducing the effects of pre-care experiences on education and health care outcomes. 

The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Presenter: Dr Sara Long, DECIPHer, Cardiff University.

Date & Time: 14th September, 11am

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