Why children and young people may need to be looked after away from their families
The local authority has a legal duty, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children wherever possible in their home and community. However, there are times when a child’s interests are best met by being cared for away from their family home. The term ‘looked after’ is used when an arrangement for a child to live away from their families, either as part of a voluntary arrangement or as the result of a care order. This can be for a short break or for a longer period of time.
The length of time will depend upon the child’s needs and the family circumstances. Parents continue to have responsibility for their children while they are away from home but this responsibility is shared with local authority when the child has a care order. But this is not the case with all children. When we think of children in care, we often think the reasons for this is because of abuse or neglect on the child, but this is not always the case.
Children can often be placed in care because their parents are ill or unable to cope with them but they may return to the family home once their parent’s situation improves enough and they are fully able to look after their child, the length of time varies depending on the circumstances. In this case it could simply be that the child is being raised by a single parent who has no help from family or friends and is going into hospital for an operation or the parent has experienced an illness which prevents them looking after their child.
A family breakdown can happen for many reasons which can include bereavement, mental health issues or substance abuse. Some of these reasons can lead to a child being neglected or even abused which would result in the child being removed for their safety and well being. It does not always have to be the parent of the child who is the abuser; it could be their partner or other family members with whom the child is living with that cause the threat to the child.
Children can be abused in many different ways not just physically but also emotionally and mentally abused by someone. If a parent has experienced a loss of a loved one, they could become resentful of the child or detached from the child resulting in them becoming neglected. Parents that have problems with substance abuse such as alcohol or drugs may experience the inability to attend to their children’s emotional, physical or development needs; this could either be a short or long term affect which could result in their children being taken in to care.
To provide the child or children a better quality of life, not all substance abusers will experience this. Children who have a parent with a mental illness can also be taken into care for different reasons such as they are at greater risk of injury caused by their parent or development issues or their own mental health. They could also become the carer for their parent, which is not a risk to the child but may result in them missing school or missing out on things they should be doing at their age such as socialising with friends.
Parents cannot always be blamed for the removal of children from the family home. A child or young person may need to leave the family home because of their own health issues, behavior or disability. An example of this could be a baby being born with a life long illness which results in them needing 24 hour care for the rest of the lives, making them unable to do anything for themselves. A parent is going to want to look after their child at home to the best of their ability, but when that child becomes a young person it’s not as easy to look after them.
They might not be able to provide the same level of care that’s needed to look after that young person as it was when that child was smaller and lighter to care for. This choice to look after their child might be taken from them by health professionals who may feel the child is not receiving the best care needed. Respite can also be offered to parents as a break from the demands of caring for their child which can vary from a few hours to a number of days.