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Revisiting children ‘home on trial’ in the context of current concerns about the costs and effectiveness of the looked-after children system: findings from an exploratory study

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Statute and practice relating to s.31 part IV of The Children Act 1989 allow children subject to care orders to be placed at home with their parent(s). It is not uncommon for the courts to accept a plan for children to return home at the final hearing of care proceedings at which full care orders are granted. In such instances, children retain looked-after status but, in terms of their day-to-day care, are looked after by parent(s). Whilst there are a small number of studies conducted in the 1990s relating to children ‘home on trial’, there is a much more limited recent literature. It is important to revisit this population of children, given current concerns about the burgeoning costs of child care proceedings and the looked-after children system (LAC). This paper reports on a small-scale exploratory study in one north-west local authority area. Consisting of a file study and interviews with parents and professionals, the study examines the factors that contributed to initial removal of children to public care, the impact of the LAC system for children ‘home on trial’, stability of placements at home, as well as issues to do with the discharge of care orders. Particular attention is drawn to lone father headed households, a social group over-represented in our sample. The study aims to inform further multi-location studies.
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Keywords: care proceedings; discharge; diversion; fathers; stability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Quality Assurance Officer, Children and Young People's Department, Blackpool Borough Council, Blackpool, UK

Publication date: 01 November 2007

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