Changes in out of home care and permanence planning among young children in Scotland, 2003 to 2017.
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WOODS, R. and HENDERSON, G. . Changes in out of home care and permanence planning among young children in Scotland, 2003 to 2017. Adoption and fostering [online], (accepted).
UK policy has increasingly promoted early intervention and permanence planning for children who experience, or are at risk of experiencing, abuse or neglect, raising the question of whether these practices have actually increased 'on the ground.' There is already evidence of increased early intervention, in the form of out of home care, in England, as well as Australia and Canada, but thus far we do not know whether early out of home care is increasing in Scotland. Furthermore, there is no research investigating whether rates of permanence planning have changed anywhere in the UK. The current study addressed these gaps through a comparison of two samples of children in Scotland: 110 children born in 2003, and 117 born in 2013, all of whom were placed under compulsory measures of supervision prior to three years of age. The 2013 cohort was significantly more likely than the 2003 cohort to be removed from their parents at birth; to reside away from parents throughout the first three years of life; and to reside away from parents at three years of age. Significantly more of the 2013 cohort than the 2003 cohort had a plan for permanence by three years. These findings are consistent with the view that policy changes in the UK are impacting practice (although practice changes may have resulted from other sources as well / instead). The fall in parental care was largely compensated by an increase in the use of foster care, which has resource implications. Children removed from their parents at birth were usually not returned in the first three years of life, not raised by extended family members, and were separated from one or more siblings. This typically reduced instability for young children, but also entailed substantial birth family fragmentation. The impact on children and families of early removal into foster care must therefore be carefully assessed in light of the increasing prevalence of this practice in Scotland and elsewhere.