Care for children in residential settings is popularly characterised as the last resort for children who have had multiple failed placements and often high levels of need, requiring therapeutic help. It is often assumed that children will leave residential care for independent living. Using administrative data for a six-year period (2008–2014) for children “looked after” in Wales, univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted to provide a characteristic profile of the residential child care population. Of those placed in a residential setting, the vast majority of children were voluntarily placed and the most common reason for leaving residential care was going home. A similar number of children left residential care to move back to a family setting as entered residential care from a family setting, which challenges the assumption of residential care as necessarily the final destination in a troubled care history. The fact that large numbers of children are placed voluntarily in residential care might suggest some potential for preventing some of these placements and keeping children at home with support. Appropriate measures are needed to support children returning from residential care to live with birth families, as well as support for independent living.

AuthorsMartin Elliot