More primary-age children than ever are being taken into residential care and one in four is now under the age of 12, care staff heard last week at their annual conference in Aviemore.
Research by the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care, based at Strathclyde University, shows a steady rise in the numbers of younger children who are being removed from the family home, often at night during a domestic crisis, and taken into short-term care.
Many are also transferred from foster homes to council units after bust-ups.
A study of six local authorities over six months last year found that the average age of children taken into care is 12.5, and that 10 per cent of admissions involve children under the age of 10. Twice as many boys as girls are in the 5-11 age band and interviews with unit managers confirm the trend of younger children coming into their care.
The Scottish Executive-funded study by Ian Milligan and Graham McPheat also looked in detail at one authority. At the start of the study only one resident out of 30 was younger than 12, but during the research 12 admissions of children aged 11 or younger were recorded, more than 25 per cent of the total. Of these 12 admissions, five were discharged within a week and a further three within three months.
In the national study, 58 out of 215 children had at least one sister or brother admitted at the same time but half were split up despite the insistence of the 1995 Children Act on keeping families together. Mr Milligan said this was often due to difficulty in finding places.
Life in care, Scotland Plus 2-3