Care-experienced children and young people are individuals who have been placed in care at some point during their life. They are more likely to have poor mental health. This may affect their future, as it increases the risk of poor physical health, being involved in crime and being unemployed. Poor mental health may be the result of a young person’s time in care, but may also be because of the reasons why they have had to come into care.
There have been efforts to improve the mental health and well-being of children and young people who are care-experienced. Some aim to encourage positive mental health and well-being. Others offer treatment for those diagnosed with a mental health disorder (e.g. depression or anxiety). There are many different types of programmes. They might look at improving the social and emotional skills of the individual child, or they might try to give support and training to foster carers and residential carers. Some programmes look to change how medical professionals or social workers work with children and young people.
In the UK it is not clear which programmes are successful as not much research has been done in this area. It is also hard to know if programmes that have worked in other countries could work in the UK.
Aims and Objectives
We want to find out which programmes work in different countries and the reasons why they work. This will help us to see what programmes might be successful in the UK.
We will aim to answer six questions:
1) What types of programmes have been used to improve the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people?
2) Have these programmes been successful?
3) What helps these programmes to be delivered well and what are the challenges?
4) Do children and young people, and their carers, like these interventions?
5) From our findings, can we take the most successful parts of the different programmes and build a new programme that might work best?
6) Which programme do different children and young people, and their carers, think is most likely to work in their community?
In answering these questions, we hope to have a programme that we can try out in the UK with the aim of improving the mental health and well-being of care-experienced children and young people.
We will bring together existing research that has tested programmes aiming to improve the mental health and well-being of care-experienced children and young people. From this, we should be able to understand what programmes work and how, and also what more research is needed.
Involving care-experienced children and young people: We will involve care-experienced children and young people. They will advise on all parts of the research and will help us to decide how best to share our findings. The Fostering Network and CASCADE Voices will help us to engage children and young people and carers in our research.
Sharing our findings: We will share our results through a number of reports, conferences, and online blogs. The Fostering Network will hold two events for foster carers, and care-experienced children and young people, with activities and games to explore what we found out and what to do next. We will also share our findings with the social care sector by hosting a CASCADE ExChange event and meeting with CASCADE Voices, a group of young people who have been in care and now advise on research studies.