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Better adult outcomes for children cared for by relatives – new research

New research from University College London's Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care shows that of adults who spent some or all of their childhood in care, those who were cared for by relatives as children had better socio-economic outcomes than their peers who did not.

The researchers, led by Professor Amanda Sacker, examined whether socio-economic, family, and living arrangements of adults who had been in non-parental care across the first three decades of adult life varied by type of care (residential, non-relative and relative).

They did this using longitudinal data from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (LS) from 1971-2001 which enabled them to look at the care experiences of 18 year-olds and then follow them into their 20s, 30s and 40s when they could compare socioeconomic, family, and living arrangements by different out-of-home care (OHC) experiences.

The Nuffield Foundation funded research showed OHC increased the likelihood of poorer functioning in family formation, relationships, and living arrangements during participants' 20s, 30s and 40s. The worst outcomes were observed for those with a history of residential care, followed by non-relative OHC, and the least adverse outcomes for relative OHC.

There was, in addition strong and consistent evidence of widening of inequalities in outcomes across childhood census years.

Commenting on the latest findings from the project, Professor Sacker said:

"Children who spent time in non-parental care report poor outcomes in many aspects of their later lives on average, but less is known about differences by type of care, something our research seeks to explore. This research provides further worrying evidence of enduring inequalities faced by people who for a host of reasons largely outside their control are not able to live with their parents when they are children. The research reinforces our earlier findings and adds weight to the evidence supporting policies to place children in the type of care that will benefit them most in the long-term. The research findings suggest children are placed in a family setting whenever possible, with relative care always considered as a possibility."

For more details of the research, click here.