Trust comes first
by Celia Hannon
A leaked serious case review once again draws attention to the failings of Doncaster social services. The report from the Children's Safety Board is to be published this week and it will suggest that the brutal attack by two brothers on two boys in Edlington, which left one in a coma, were predictable and preventable.
When it is released the report will no doubt focus on the chain of events leading up to the shocking attack by the two boys who were living with foster carers at the time, but this case goes the heart of the long term problems confronting the care system. The brothers' family had been known to social services for 14 years. What happens to children before children enter care can be just as significant, if not more, than what happens after they become looked after by the state.
Research now gives us a glimpse of the true impact of pre-care adversity in the early years. One study found that upon entry to care 72 per cent of looked after children aged 5 to 15 had a mental or behavioural problem. Healthier level of emotional and behavioural wellbeing are strongly predicted by entry to care age 3 or under. The abuse and neglect which it seems the two brothers were likely to have experienced in their family will have played a key part in shaping their own abusive behaviour.
The care system did not simply fail the boys they attacked, it failed those brothers when it did not step in to protect them in their early years.
This case will undoubtedly spark another round of stories about a care system in 'crisis', at 'breaking point' and under-performing in all areas. But we should be wary of this narrative, because it will only serve to undermine efforts to improve safeguarding of children in the long run. The less we trust the care system, the less willing Local Authorities will be to act earlier and more decisively when children's mental health can be protected.