Comparisons between looked after children and the rest of the population have consistently shown that care leavers are one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society. But assuming that the care system is wholly responsible for this disadvantage, and is therefore ‘failing’ all those who enter care, is both overly simplistic and counter-productive.
Through an in-depth review of existing data and research studies, In Loco Parentis shows that there are a number of factors that influence outcomes among children in care, not least their pre-care experiences; and that looked-after children, far from being a homogeneous group, enter care for a variety of reasons and have very different needs. Using new quantitative analysis of the costs associated with good and poor care journeys, In Loco Parentis demonstrates the significant gains to be made by minimising delay and drift, promoting stability in placements and supporting young people’s transitions to adulthood.
Drawing on primary research with looked after children, care leavers and foster carers as well as case studies of good practice cross the UK, the report sets out recommendations to de-stigmatise care as a source of family support and ‘taper’ the edges of the system so that care is not used as an all-or-nothing intervention. The report demonstrates that what matters most is building a care system which is sufficiently proactive and responsive to provide the right kind of support for children and their families at every stage.