Children in households with substance misuse, domestic violence or mental health problems: Who is at risk of entering care?

A study looking at the relationship between household risk factors, particularly substance misuse, domestic violence and mental health problems and the later entry of children into local authority care. 


The number of children in local authority care in Wales has been increasing since the mid-1990s and there are large variations in the numbers of children in care across different Welsh local authorities. However, the reasons why are not clear. It could be associated with changing problems in society. Alternatively, it may be due to the way local authority social service departments respond to family problems. This project aims to unpick some of the reasons why the care rates vary across local authorities and why they have increased over time. 

Activities and Methods 

This is a mixed methods study: 

  • The quantitative arm of the study is using linked administrative datasets to look at the likelihood of a child entering care when there are indications of specific problems in the household. These problems include mental health issues, substance misuse and domestic violence. The study is exploring how the likelihood of a child from a household with these problems going into care varies across different Welsh local authorities, and how it has varied over the years since 2002. It is also considering how this relates to the prevalence of these problems and deprivation in the area. 
  • The results of the quantitative part of the study will be used to identify local authorities where the rates of care entry for children from families with specific problems are lower than the average or have decreased over time. Such cases will be followed up by focus groups with those working in children’s and/or adult services to find out if there are any elements of policy or practice that may account for the differences. 

This project is funded by Health Care Research Wales and is being carried out at Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE), Cardiff University in partnership with the Centre for Trials Research Cardiff University, the Adolescent Mental Health Data Platform at Swansea University and the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University. 

For more information please contact: Dr. Nell Warner, Research Associate CASCADE, Tel: +44 (0)2920 876910, Email:, SPARK, Cardiff University Social Science Park, Cardiff University. 

Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorDr. Nell Warner

Academic Staff

Prof. Jonathan Scourfield
Dr. Rebecca Cannings-John
Prof. Ann John
Prof. Karen Broadhurst
Related SchoolsSchool of Social Sciences – Cardiff University
Centre for Trials Research, School of Medicine – Cardiff University
Related partnersAdolescent Mental Health Data Platform – SAIL databank in Swansea University
Centre for Child and Family Justice Research – Lancaster University
FundersHealth and Care Research Wales