Help for most vulnerable
There is no “magic bullet” that will prevent the need for children to enter care, but it may be possible to develop services that are able to stop some children from entering care by improving their family situation. Option Two could be developed to help the most vulnerable families in society.
The ability to engage families in very difficult situations was identified by both social workers and families themselves as a key strength of the project. Some factors identified were good communication and listening skills, a willingness to work long or unusual hours, commitment to each family and a deep knowledge of both child care and substance misuse issues.
Child welfare on focus
It is important that child welfare, not the prevention of care, is the primary goal of any intervention. The evidence shows that children in care tend to do better than similar children left at home and children returned home from care tend to do less well than those who remain at home. A service that is highly effective in keeping children in families that do not meet their needs might actually have a detrimental effect on some children’s welfare.
A crucial element in developing evidence-informed practice is to acknowledge when we do not have evidence about what works and how to prevent children from entering care is one such area. This work makes an important contribution to developing that evidence base.