Welcome to Magic Beans, a blog by Alma Economics. Together, we will explore evidence, data and stories related to vulnerable children, and we will keep you in the loop with emerging issues in the sector and the latest academic research.
The number of children aged under 11 referred to specialist support for issues including depression and anxiety has increased by a third during the last 3 years, while one-third of children referred to Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) were declined help.
- An adoptive parent describes sending his adopted son back to care as the hardest things he and his wife ever had to do, while admits that if his family had been given more support the situation might have been different.
- The interesting story of one of a tiny number of single men in the US who are adopting children from foster care.
- 17 councils have just received a funding boost of £3.4 millions to join forces and form 5 new Regional Adoption Agencies.
- The shocking number of children in care who won't get adopted in Coventry and Warwickshire.
- Support is falling short for vulnerable older teenagers, as problems do not magically disappear when children turn 18.
- Changes to asylum rules that would reunite hundreds of child refugees with their families are a step closer.
- Austerity will have cast an extra 1.5m children into poverty by 2021, and lone-parents, disabled children and ethnic minorities will be among worst- hit, says EHRC.
- Special: 13 Heartwarming Photos Of Children Getting Adopted
- Around 180,000 children live with relatives or friends, but kinship carers face a postcode lottery for assistance!
- ITV documentary reveals shocking scale of sexual abuse at boarding schools.
- 26% percent rise in sex crimes against children in Lancashire, figures from the NSPCC show.
- Friday Special: 13 Heartwarming photos of children getting adopted!
- Around 250 witnesses a year do not get help to give evidence to police and courts, while children wait an average of four weeks to be matched with Registered Intermediaries (RI).
- 9% of the 900-plus youngsters in care in Manchester have fallen victims to substance abuse, DfE’s data shows.
- A child was referred to local authority children’s services every 49 seconds last year, the Local Government Association reveals today.
- Gangs lure children and vulnerable people into moving drugs and money by promising gifts or protection for their families.
- Special: watch the new BBC TV series asking hard questions about social care and interracial adoption.
- 20% of siblings taken into care are split up, while almost 60% of LAs had difficulties placing sibling groups in Scotland.
- Almost half children and young people needing specialist mental health support 'refused' treatment in Northern Ireland.
- Thousands of vulnerable children used as drug mules by gangs, the National Crime Agency reveals.
- Children facing abuse and neglect in England get help only when their problems reach a crisis, say leading charities.
- A survey of 2,084 adoptive parents has revealed that 12% of adopted children were given a fixed-term exclusion in 2015-2016.
- 120 children were adopted from care during the year ending 31 March 2017 in Northern Ireland, the highest number in recent years.
- An extra 400,000 children will be in "absolute poverty" due to benefit cuts, a think tank warns.
- "There is no such thing as a suitable institution' for a child", the UN Disability Committee argues.
- A new NHS survey reports that 19% of youngsters in England have smoked, 24% have taken drugs and 44% have drunk alcohol, revealing that drug use is more common than smoking among children aged 11-15.
- Social worker finds no evidence to support allegations which caused a media furore in August about a 'Christian' girl fostered by Muslims.
- No victim of sexual abuse can be denied compensation on grounds of alleged consent anymore!
- Special - A new book (which has been turned into a free online resource) teaches children how to speak out about abuse.
On a recent paper, Farmer and Dance (2015) studied the crucial question (which remains unanswered) of what contributes to better adoption matching. They compare the effectiveness and outcomes of different family finding methods in adoption by studying adoption cases in 10 LAs in England selected on the basis that they were using different approaches. It should be noted that the small sample and the purposive sampling limit the external validity of the results.
What does help to achieve good quality and speedy matching?
1. The provision of full and accurate information for both children and parents. When the reality of children’s problems had not been shared with adopters or their preferences had been stretched, placements were vulnerable to disruption.
2. Making early decisions about widening the search. Concerns about the support provided to families in other LAs and financial constraints seem to delay the decision to feature children’s cases out of the authority.
3. Using formal processes to track and review cases through the system and making the matching decision at formal meetings. Formal processes, such as Planning Meetings from the start, at which a family finding strategy is agreed (including decisions about widening the search), and the strategy is tied to deadlines, can help to avoid delays.
The study also indicates an association between quality of the match (which the authors define as compliance with the matching requirements) and placement outcomes. 63% of poor matches (those with significant compromise) resulted in disruption or placements which were continuing, but their stability was threatened, while the same was true for only 5% of good or fair matches (those without significant compromise).
The trade-off between compromising and delaying the process is one of the main difficulties faced by social workers. What if a poor-quality matching is made and a child (and family) go through a painful process? Is it better to make a child wait longer and continue living in uncertainty? The above strategies seem to be able to minimise the difficulty of this dilemma as if the search is widened early; more options will be available and probably less poor-quality matchings will be made. More formality and clearer decisions on when to widen the search will decrease the delays and children’s waiting times.
- The mental gap between rich and poor children has seen a more than threefold increase, a Scottish Government-funded study showed.
- Thousands of youngsters as young as 11 work as drug mules, for an illicit industry making up to £7billion a year.
- The number of children being put up for adoption has seen an unanticipated increase in Wales, creating an urgent need for adoptive parents.
- “Anybody considering giving a child a home should be prepared for challenges but also for love, joy and fulfilment”, an adoptive father - who could not imagine his life any different to this -confesses.
- More than 30 “looked-after children” in Oxfordshire has shockingly been left without schooling, while children services chiefs across England warn that the problem is not isolated to Oxfordshire.
- Shocking stories of two Ugandan children taken away from their families on the promise of better schooling have just being revealed. Fear for multiple similar cases remaining hidden.
- Reports of child-on-child sex offences rose by 71% in just 3 years! Victims and their parents feel unsupported by classmates, head-teachers and the police.
- On a related note, BBC reports the shocking story of a child being expected to share a class with her rapist.
- On the bright side, watch the heartwarming video of a girl's reaction when finds out she’s been adopted by her foster family.
A migrant child travelling to Europe is exploited every 30 minutes, a children's charity has estimated while pointing out the need for new rules to protect children refugees travelling to the UK after Brexit.
The adoption process can be fairly complex and difficult to understand, even for the most informed. When a decision is made that a “looked after” child should be adopted, the local authority (LA) is responsible for finding the perfect family. However, LAs don’t always have access to suitable, internally-vetted prospective parents. In these cases, they may get in contact with other LAs or voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs), which may be able to propose a suitable match. However, this process comes at a cost - an inter-agency fee is paid to cover the other agency's cost of recruiting, assessing and approving the adopters. Evidence has shown that a reluctance to pay this fee may create delays in the adoption process, make family finders reluctant to widen their search, increase the degree of compromise on child’s needs or adopters’ preferences (Farmer and Dance, 2016) and act as a barrier to inter-agency placements, especially for children with ‘harder to place’ (HTP) characteristics (i.e. aged 5 or older, disabled, with siblings, with a BME background or children who have been waiting for a placement for over 18 months).
To address some of these issues the Government created the Inter-Agency Adoption Fee Grant, to reimburse the money LAs spend on the fee for HTP children. The grant initially subsidised placements which took place between 8 July 2015 and 31 October 2016, but then it was extended until 31 March 2017. The target of the grant was to remove any barriers to transferring a child’s case to another agency and make the process faster. But, did it actually have an impact?
Was the grant effective?
The Department for Education has recently published an evaluation of the grant to explore how effective it was in different aspects. The researchers who undertook the evaluation combined quantitative and qualitative analysis by using data for 500 children with a placement order made between April 2014 and March 2016 and conducting in-depth interviews, focus groups and telephone interviews.
The key finding of the evaluation was that the speed of matching had increased significantly during the period when the subsidy was available, as the average time into identifying a match was shorter than in the preceding year and a greater proportion of children were matched within 6 months of placement orders. However, the researchers state that it is not possible to say that this was a direct result of the subsidy, as there are other factors that might have affected timeliness, e.g. a drop in the numbers of children with placement orders and the establishment of LinkMaker, as a routinely used family-finding resource. During the interviews and focus groups, the majority of participating agencies said that the subsidy had not made much difference to the way they approached family finding. However, some of them admitted the grant had a significant effect as it eliminated the need for management approval for external searchers, enabling wider and quicker family search. Moreover, the qualitative analysis revealed an appreciation of the subsidy by all agencies.
Other findings of the analysis showed a pronounced need for increased training and education for adopters, as well as a preference for ‘in-house’ placements by professionals, which was associated mainly with issues of communication, information sharing and trust with other agencies, rather than financial incentives.
Although the study reveals a small impact of the subsidy on the way that VAAs and LAs work together and no clear effect on timeliness, it is important to keep in mind that the grant was known to be a temporary change. These temporary pots of money are not beneficial to the sustainability of the sector, which would benefit from more certain, long-term funding streams. The behaviour of LAs and VAAs could have been different in the event of a permanent policy. Another important aspect indicated by some professionals who participated in the study is that the subsidy could have been better publicised to frontline staff.
- DfE's new "Children looked after" statistics have just been released, revealing a 20% decrease in adoptions in two years despite the increasing number of children in care.
- More than a quarter of adopted families at serious risk, Adoption UK's recent survey showed.
- More than 400,000 Scots were identified as vulnerable in the police database.
- On Muslim fostering row: careless press reporting must be held to account for the damage that can be done, particularly to vulnerable individuals.
- The number of children with special needs who are permanently excluded from schools increased by one-third in 12 months, according to DfE's statistics.
- According to a new study by the British Council, young people are frustrated with the education system, feel unprepared for the labour market and adulthood and fear for futures in Brexit Britain.
- 22% of children in Ireland are in contact with strangers online and more than 200 incidents of cyberbullying have been reported over the past year, while 69% of teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety in the classroom, according to CyberSafeIreland’s Annual Report for 2017.
- Protocols for missing children are not followed, children wait for unacceptable periods of time for help, and social workers are saddled with unsustainable caseloads in Croydon according to Ofsted
- Ipswich is targeted by London drug gangs involving children as young as 12
- 22 of police forces arrested suspected Class A dealers aged 14 or younger,according to The Independent
- How social media relates to junk food?
- New research from the University of Hertfordshire shows a strong relationship between low school sense of belonging and self-harm and thus highlights the need for high quality, compulsory PSHE education
- "I have never found ethnicity, race or religion has been an issue" a Muslim woman whose family has been fostering children from all religions for 25 years points out
- Official fostering rules do not state that foster carers must necessarily be of the same ethnic or faith background as the children they care for, but they must be equipped to meet that child's cultural and religious needs
- 40% of children worry about being the victim of theft while being followed by a stranger and being assaulted are also among the most common fears, Children's Society annual report reveals
- Children, being approached outside school gates and on social media, are targeted by criminals to act as money mules, police warns
- 4 million children live in poverty and 400,000 don't have their own beds, a new report by charity Buttle UK shockingly reports
- 140,000 children, who considered being in need of help due to neglect or abuse, did not receive any support as they did not meet the statutory criteria in 2015-16!
- Growing up with same-sex parents is no different to being raised by a mother and a father when it comes to a child’s gender identity, researchers have found
- Reports of child neglect in the UK increased by more than 60% in the last five years, NSPCC reveals
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