Relationships for care experienced children

The ‘cliff edge’ some children experience when leaving care can be isolating and lonely – we want to better understand how to support children in developing relationships that last when they leave care

Children and young people with experience of care can lack the strong and supportive relationships which are crucial for their development, stability, and mental health.  Care experienced young people can miss out on the security network that some of their peers benefit from, and can experience a ‘cliff edge’ when they leave care. Given the limited evidence currently available, we will start by evaluating some of the most commonly used programmes, while scoping new research in areas where evidence such is sorely lacking. 

What do we already know?

Only one-third of care leavers know where to get help and support when they leave care.  Building supportive relationships for care experienced children is a key protective factor  which can improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children. It can also help prevent intergenerational cycles of care as those children grow up and have children of their own.  

What more do we need to know?

We want to better understand how to support children to develop relationships that last when they leave care. There are currently few programmes or approaches developed to support relationships for care experienced children that have been evaluated.  This means we don’t know how best to supporting children in creating and maintaining these relationships.  

We also would like to see better data on care leavers emotional wellbeing. Regular monitoring of the wellbeing of Care Leavers would provide important information about how this group are doing and how well they are being supported by the current system.  

We also need to know more about how to improve the types of support offered to children in foster care and how to improve the availability of foster carers.  

What are we doing about it?

We will begin by evaluating programmes which are being commonly used to support relationships for this group of children. We will also seek to identify any additional interventions that show promise and can be evaluated for impact with the aim of finding interventions that work to support relationships for children with care experience.  We are currently working to identify a measure that could be used to give us a clearer picture of care leaver wellbeing which could be used as part of national monitoring systems. 

Staying Close Feasibility Study

Care leavers’ experiences of emotional wellbeing support while leaving care

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June 5, 2023

Foundations, the new national What Works Centre for Children & Families

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