The Care Pathways and Outcomes study has been tracking a population of children (n=374) that were under the age of five and in care in Northern Ireland on the 31st March 2000. The first three phases of the study were funded by the Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland. Phase One (Multiple Placements: 2000-2003) focused on gathering baseline information on the population of children up to the age of five. Phase two (the Carers’ Perspective: 2003-2006) focused on the views of adoptive, foster, and birth parents for a sub-sample (n=110) of the children in the study population. In Phase three (the Children’s Perspective: 2006-2010), we collected the direct views and experiences of a sub-sample (n=77) of the young people (aged 9 to 14 years), in addition to their parents and carers in adoption, foster care, kinship care, on Residence Order, and living with birth parents. The current phase of the study, Phase Four, is focused on the late teens and early adulthood (aged 17 to 22 years old). Phase Four is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
A summary of Phase Three is provided in this short animated film:
Research evidence suggests that children who have been in care at an early age, and remain in care for a considerable period of time, are a significantly disadvantaged group, with poor outcomes across a range of health and educational domains. However, poor outcome is not inevitable, and there is evidence that early exit from a risky home environment, and early identification of long-term placement, be that adoption, long-term foster or kinship care, can act as a buffer against the negative impact of being in care. This study enables, for the first time in any study and in any jurisdiction, a detailed examination of the lives of a population of young children in the care system, and the longer-term effects on their lives of the placements that were provided to them. This will help inform future professional decision-making and policy development, in a way that attempts to ensure that young children in care are provided with placements and supports that enable them to achieve their full potential.