How can the analysis of existing data improve care experiences for our most vulnerable children?

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How can the analysis of existing data improve care experiences for our most vulnerable children?

In a recent article on The Conversation, Louise Mc Grath-Lone, a PhD candidate at UCL, published results from a study of children leaving the care system. With colleagues she analysed administrative data from the Department for Education and found that one-third of children re-entered care within five years of leaving it. The study examined the factors which influence the likelihood of a child re-entering the care system.

To me, this looks like a great reuse of government data, adding value to the statistics published by the Department for Education. The rates of re-entry for children who go home to parents are sobering, and highlight the need to continue to help and support families after the child’s return. The findings about ethnicity (white and mixed ethnicity chchildren holding handsildren had the highest rate of re-entry) are interesting, and why ethnicity affects a child’s chances of a successful return home is an area for potential future study.  The calculator is an interesting way for practitioners to think about how research findings can inform practice. It cannot replace the detailed assessment of an individual child’s situation, but might be useful in helping practitioners think about which children and families will need the most support.

At the ESRC funded Business and Local Government Data Research Centre at University of East Anglia we are also hoping to make use of existing datasets to help improve care experiences. We are looking at placement pathways for children in our local authority, Norfolk County Council. We hope that linking some variables from the Children in Need datasets might allow a more nuanced analysis of how children’s family backgrounds affect what happens to them later, particularly factors identified at the end of assessment. Although children who re-enter care after being adopted cannot easily be tracked with Department for Education statistics, those whose adoptions disrupt before the legal order can be studied. Using six years of data from Norfolk County Council we are currently doing a survival analysis to look at which children exit care through adoption, and how long it takes for children to be matched with adoptive parents and finally be adopted. Our next project looks to replicate this analysis with a larger group of local authorities – those in the Yorkshire and Humber adoption consortium.

Please read more about our research projects and remember that if you think you could make use of data we have available, for research which could benefit society, then you can apply for access now.

Blog post by Beth Neil (Researcher for the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre, based at the University of East Anglia), please email us if you have any questions about the contents of this post.

Published 24 January 2017