Children in Care
A child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a Looked After Child. Looked after children are also often referred to as children in care, a term which many children and young people prefer.
Looked after children are:
- living with foster parents
- living in a residential children's home or
- living in residential settings like schools or secure units.
There are a variety of reasons why children and young people enter care.
- The child’s parents might have agreed to this – for example, if they are too unwell to look after their child or if their child has a disability and needs respite care.
- The child could be an unaccompanied asylum seeker, with no responsible adult to care for them.
- Children's services may have intervened because they felt the child was at significant risk of harm. If this is the case the child is usually the subject of a court-made legal order.
A child stops being looked after when they are adopted, return home or turn 18. However local authorities are required to support children leaving care at 18 until they are at least 21. This may involve them continuing to live with their foster family.
Most children in care say that their experiences are good and that it was the right choice for them, but more needs to be done to ensure that all looked after children are healthy and safe, have the same opportunities as their peers and can move successfully into adulthood.
Role of the Designated teacher for children in care and previously in care
“Designated teachers should take lead responsibility in ensuring school staff understand the things which can affect how children in care and previously in care children learn and achieve and how the whole school supports the educational achievement of these pupils.”
This means making sure that all staff:
- Are aware of the emotional, psychological and social effects of loss and separation (attachment awareness) from birth families and that some children may find it difficult to build relationships of trust with adults because of their experiences, and how this might affect the child’s behaviour:
- Understand the importance of involving the child’s parents or guardians in decisions affecting their child’s education, and be a contact for parents or guardians who want advice or have concerns about their child’s progress at school.
A child that was previously in care potentially remains vulnerable and all staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep children previously in care safe. When dealing with children in care and previously in care, it is important that all agencies work together and prompt action is taken on concerns to safeguard these children, who are a particularly vulnerable group.
The Designated Teacher for Children in Care is Mrs J Fleming.
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