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Care can be best

Children with special needs who are placed in care tend to stay away from their families longer than those who have no particular physical or learning problems, according to research.

Studies from Britain and the United States into the length of time children remain in care, and the effects of reuniting them with their parents, show that disabled children are among those who are looked after the longest, particularly if they have learning difficulties.

This is usually due to a lack of specialised provision for them in schools locally and parents being unable to cope.


But the study, Reuniting looked-after children with their families, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the National Children's Bureau, and edited by Nina Biehal of York University, found that reunion with families was not necessarily the best outcome for those with special needs. Some children's problems intensified on their return home, and their well-being was adversely affected if the initial cause of their problems had not been resolved and insufficient action had been taken to provide them with support.

It said: "Evidence from the few studies that have addressed the issue of psychosocial outcomes suggests that children who are reunited with their families are likely to have more serious emotional and behavioural problems, poorer social functioning, educational participation and adjustment, and higher rates of re-offending than those who continue to be looked after."

Youngsters with emotional or behavioural problems were usually reunited quicker than those who were placed in care because they were abused or neglected.


But if children with behavioural problems were in care because of abuse, they were at high risk of further maltreatment when they went back home.

The study concluded that children were often let down by the quality of social work assessment, decision-making and follow-up after care. It called for better monitoring.

The report came as it was revealed that most children in care are entered for just one GCSE. The TES Time to Care campaign aims to highlight the plight of children in care.

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