Adolescents aged 14 and 15 years old represent largest proportion of children entering care in Wales, research shows

Adolescents aged 14 and 15 years old represent largest proportion of children entering care in Wales, research shows

A study on care pathways and placement stability for adolescents in Wales has been published by the Family Justice Data Partnership – the first in the UK to examine both entry to care and change of legal status beyond initial entry to care for this population.

The authors noted that the elevated number of adolescents (between 10 and 17 years) entering care has been “particularly evident” in the last decade in Wales, with nearly one in four children in care (23%) being over 16 years old, and 39% aged between 10 and 15.

Adolescents aged 14-15 are the most likely to enter care – making up the largest proportion of new entrants each year, the data revealed.

Looking at placement stability, the study found that nearly half of younger adolescents experienced three or more placement moves, while older adolescents were more likely to experience only one placement.

The report noted that Government led initiatives such as ‘Staying Put’ have been introduced which enables young people to stay with foster carers beyond the age of 18.

“Although this will help stability at a critical age, it remains challenging to incorporate stability into support when adolescents first enter care,”, the authors added.

The study found that older adolescents had higher rates of voluntary arrangements, while younger adolescents were more likely to enter care under interim care orders.

Of adolescents who entered care under a voluntary arrangement, 68% were placed with unrelated foster carers, and only a small proportion were placed with friends or family, in a children’s home, residential care home or school, or a residential placement, the report revealed.

Those who entered on an interim care order were most likely to be placed with their parents (34%) than any other placement, indicating the “widespread use” of care orders at home.

Variations across the 22 local authorities in Wales were also observed – with Pembrokeshire, Wrexham and Cardiff having higher than average incidence rates of adolescents entering care for the first time.

Laura North, Family Justice Data Partnership Researcher at Swansea University, said: “Our report provides critical insights into the experiences of adolescents in the care system in Wales and highlights the critical need for tailored interventions to address the distinct needs of adolescents in care. By understanding the pathways and challenges faced by these vulnerable young people, we can better inform policy and practice to improve placement stability and ensure better outcomes.”

The Family Justice Data Partnership, which is funded by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, is a collaboration between Lancaster University (Centre for Child and Family Justice Research) and Swansea University (Population Data Science).

The full report can be read here.

Lottie Winson

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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