A NEW study asking children in care about their experiences found that half of those under the age of seven did not know why they were in care.
The study, by the charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol, is the largest of its kind, surveying 2263 children and young people across different regions.
On the whole, the survey found that most children and young people felt that being in care had improved their lives. But younger children’s experience was less positive.
More than half of four- to seven-year-olds said that it had not been fully explained to them why they were in care, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) were unsure of who their social worker was. And almost a fifth of eight- to ten-year-olds did not feel listened to, or included in decisions made about them.
The study was carried out through online surveys with young people up to the age of 18. The majority felt that their carers looked after them well. One wrote: “I feel I have a proper family who care about me and value my opinions. I feel loved and cared for.”
A third of those over 11, however, said that they had had three or more social workers in a year, and a fifth had been moved between foster parents five or more times, affecting friendships and relationships. Children of mixed ethnicities were more likely to have been moved frequently.
A third of younger children said that they were bullied at school because of being in care.
Professor Julie Selwyn, director of the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies, and lead author of the study, said: “The results of the survey show that most children and young people are flourishing in care, but about 18 per cent of young people are not. Young people with low well-being did not feel settled and felt that they were being moved from placement to placement. The detrimental impact of a lack of a trusted adult in these children’s lives cannot be over-estimated.”
The latest government figures show that there are more than 72,000 children in care in England, and that the largest majority in care are there as a result of parental abuse and neglect.