A new report by The Adolescent and Children's Trust (TACT) and the Centre for the Research on the Child and the Family at the University of East Anglia looks at the correlation between children in care and offending.
The Looked After Children and Offending project (2010-11) was funded by the Big Lottery Research Programme and was a partnership between The Adolescent and Children's Trust (TACT), the fund holder, and the Centre for Research on the Child and Family at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the research partner. The research was prompted by concerns about the relationship between the care system and the risk of offending.
The report highlights how the risk factors for offending, e.g. adverse parenting and abuse, are quite often the same risk factors associated with children in care. However, early entry into care with suitable support from a range of agencies and sensitive parenting can significantly decrease the risk of offending behaviour. The report found that if children who are already at risk of offending do not receive adequate support whilst in care then their risks of offending are even greater.
The report recommends that children in care should not be expected to leave their placement before the age of 18 and should in fact have the option to remain in their placement until the age of 21.
A multi-agency approach should be utilised in order to ensure that those children at risk of offending are provided with the appropriate services and support to prevent (future) offending and / or to provide rehabilitative treatments.
The report also recommends that all staff working with children in care and youth justice need to be more aware of the impact of abuse on a child in relation to offending so that they are provided with the most suitable support and diverted away from the youth justice system where possible to ensure that minor offences are not treated with inappropriate custodial sanctions.
The report highlights the positive effect that a healthy relationship with an adult can have on a young person's development, particularly for those in care. Trust in relationships relies on the belief that significant others will care about you as a special person and will be emotionally and practically available to you at times of need. This not only allowed them to see adults as loving, trustworthy people but it also enabled them to develop a positive image of themselves. These healthy trust relationships allow young people to resolve feelings about difficult past relationships and can also prevent offending.
Read the full report here.
EPIC, (formerly IAYPIC), is an independent association that works throughout the Republic of Ireland, with and for children and young people who are currently living in care or who have had an experience of living in care. See: www.epiconline.ie