A pilot fostering project for children with complex needs has been successful in reducing re-offending, substance use and violent behaviour, an evaluation has found.
So far 56 children aged 10-16 have completed the project, known as multidimensional treatment foster care, since it began in April 2004.
Almost half of the children had previous criminal convictions, but just 13% received a further caution or conviction on leaving, and there were “significant” reductions in violent behaviour.
Self-harm rates down
And while one third of children had previously self-harmed, only 4% had done so by the end of their placement, the evaluation published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families found.
The project, which offers round-the-clock support from health and social care professionals, also reduced children’s substance misuse and behavioural difficulties at school. The results “compared favourably” against current poor outcomes for looked-after children with complex needs, the evaluation concluded.
The evidence also suggested that the costs of supporting the children was “substantially less” in the long-term as they were less likely to need high-cost placements or experience multiple placement breakdowns in future.
A total of 150 children aged 10-16 have been placed on the project in England since it began. All had high levels of complex needs, three or more previous placements and histories of violence and offending. Of these, 100 have since left the project because they either completed it or moved on to another placement and 50 children remain.
The project, developed in the US, is also being rolled out for seven to 11-year-olds in eight local authorities, from May.