September 27, 2012 by Jo Tunnard, RyanTunnardBrown

Did you know that this year about 90,000 children and young people in England will spend time being looked after by a local authority?

For many children, this is a brief period while their family sort out a crisis and then the children return home. For others, it can go on for longer and this can mean that children get cared for in different ways, for some as they grow into adolescence and for others as they become adults.

These different types of care include living with relatives, or with foster carers, or being adopted, or living in a residential home with other young people. Sometimes it still ends up with children going back home or to other family members. All these ways of looking after children are part of the English “care system”.

The aim of our care system is to support families to help keep children safe and happy, and to make sure that children have a permanent place to grow up in. But, as the learning from practice and the evidence from research develop, is the care system still serving our children as well as it should be? The Care Inquiry wants to take stock on this important question.

The Care Inquiry is a collaboration of children’s charities with a special interest in all the care options for these children and young people. The charities are Adoption UK, British Association of Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), Family Rights Group, the Fostering Network, Research in Practice, TACT, The Together Trust and The Who Cares? Trust.

Together, they are using their expertise and knowledge – and that of others in the sector – to explore how society can best provide secure and stable homes for our most vulnerable children.

The Care Inquiry wants to:

  • take a fresh look at which children come in and out of the care system;
  • explore what we know about how children in care can have the same chances as other children to grow up with a positive sense of their identity and where they belong;
  • find out what more can be done to provide children and young people with a sense that they have a home for life, and;
  • make recommendations to government about how the care system can best meet the needs of children and young people in the future.

This is a good time to run The Care Inquiry. The government is reviewing different aspects of care, including how children’s homes operate, which children get adopted, and what happens to contact with sisters, brothers and other relatives after adoption. There are likely to be changes in the law about these things next year and we all have a duty to make sure that decisions made about vulnerable children are made in the best possible way and based on the best possible evidence of what works, for whom, and in what circumstances.

Local authorities make decisions about children in care in different ways. We want to find out more about why this happens and what it means for children and those close to them. We want to check what research studies and other reports have told us in recent years. We want to see what we can learn from the way other countries respond to the needs of children and young people who might not be able to stay at home or go back home from care. We want to get people talking about what they know, what they think, and what they themselves and others close to them can tell us about their own experience of the care system.

There will be three formal meetings of the Care Inquiry in November, December and January. These will be for invited people, and the aim is to:

  • look at recent trends in the law and practice for children in care;
  • learn from young people and adults about how the care system can support long-term stability for children, and;
  • debate how best to provide well for all children in the care system, given their different ages, backgrounds and needs.

Those invited to the formal meetings include researchers, local government policy makers, legal experts, service practitioners and managers, and young people and adults who have experience of the care system.

There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to get involved in The Care Inquiry. You can follow the Inquiry on Twitter, or visit our Pinterest page where you can find out all the information you need about the Inquiry’s work and the organisations involved.