The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory’s “Born into Care” research by Swansea University and Lancaster University continues to highlight increasing numbers of babies entering care in England and Wales.
The new study tracks what happens to babies once they come into care, as part of their ongoing work to understand what data can tell them about how and why babies are removed from their families. The team identified 6,333 babies in Wales who first entered care under voluntary arrangements or an interim care order between 1stApril 2003 to 31st March 2021 – the first study to have looked at babies coming into care via voluntary arrangements as well as care proceedings.
In addition they tracked the pathways through care over a two year period of 5,077 babies who first entered care between 2003 and 2019. Their analysis indicated that although half of the babies entered care through voluntary arrangements, over time the use of voluntary arrangements is declining and the majority of babies entering via a voluntary arrangement quickly become subject to care proceedings.
They found that babies experience a significant amount of instability once entering care. Their findings also suggest that route of entry to care influences placement outcome with greater family preservation (with parents or kin) for children who enter care via voluntary arrangements, even in those cases where care proceedings are then commenced.
Lisa Harker, director of Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, said:
“The sheer number of the very youngest children being removed from their families remains as shocking now as it did when we first published the data five years ago.
And data continues to reveal new concerns. This new analysis of Welsh data reveals that new-borns are facing the highest levels of instability among babies subject to care proceedings, with a significant proportion experiencing three or more placements within two years. We know how vital stability is to a baby’s wellbeing, so it is clear that more work needs to be done to reduce the number of placements they experience.”