This was a headline in the Sun newspaper last weekend, in an article by Michael Hamilton. Freedom of Information requests to 149 councils in England resulted in a figure of 62 children, ranging in age from 10 upwards, removed from their homes in 2015 by just 16 authorities. Some authorities refused to answer, citing data protection laws. The article lists the authorities which did respond and the relevant number in each case. The corresponding number for 2014 was 49. There are no other details, other than comments from an NSPCC spokesperson, recognising the impact of trauma on children’s behaviour and highlighting the need for help and support for families. Please assume my usual comments about the reliability of statistics such as these!
Having a child taken in to care is a generally a last resort for families experiencing child to parent violence. Firstly a family will typically experience abuse over a long period before it reaches a stage when this might be considered. Once the difficulties are acknowledged as abuse rather than “normal” behaviour, other help will have been sought; but sadly may not be available for too many families. We hear of families being repeatedly turned away by Children’s Services because their problems do not match the services available or reach the threshold for care. And of course, most families do not want a child removed until there is no other option available and the levels of threat have become unbearable and unsustainable.
There is no information given as to the route into care, nor how long children remain in care. Some children will be placed under section 20 in Britain, but others are likely to be on care orders. Some will expect to return home after a period of respite or therapy, others are removed permanently. Sadly once in care, the type of support available does not always meet the specific needs of children and young people, and some families have reported that their child’s behaviour worsened as a result; and I know that many adoptive families would be concerned that a return to care would further traumatise an already fragile individual.
Having said that, I also hear of the tremendous relief that having a child removed from the home can bring to a family in crisis, where not only the parents but also siblings and pets are being terrorised on a daily basis. Each family will make the hard decision for themselves. What it means for that family, and how things then change, is as individual as the factors behind the abuse, and the journey to that point.