Early life is crucial for human development, and the prevalence of mental disorders threatens subsequent life chances and health. This is particularly the case for children in social care: In England, up to 80,080 children were looked after by 2020, which nearly doubled the figure in mid-1990s and was equivalent to 67 children in care per 10,000 children aged under 18 years. Half of these children suffered from mental disorders, the prevalence of which persisted in the past decade. Evidence shows that looked-after children fare worse than their general population peers across a range of domains, including education,employment, risky behaviours, delinquency, social support, physical and mental health, which extend beyond young adulthood.
One way to promote mental wellbeing of looked-after children is through adoption that offers stability and quality parenting. However, the effects of this approach are found to be mixed. In light of this, increasing supportive state policies have been put in place to support adoptive families. Yet, there is limited understanding on the impact of specific UK policies in transforming the life chance and health outcomes of adopted children.
This project aims to evaluate a key policy rolled out across all 152 local authorities in England in 2015, known as the Adoptive Support Fund (ASF), on the mental health of adopted children. The ASF aims to increase access to therapeutic post-adoption support for adoptive families.
Through a pooled sample of adopted children from three national datasets, this project will examine whether the ASF has a causal impact on the mental wellbeing of children in adoptive families, using longitudinal data and a quasi-experimental design (Difference-in-Differences, DiD). Also, it aims to quantify the impact of the ASF policy intervention targeted to adoptive families and inform policy-making in addressing the mental health needs of adoptive children in England.
The project is set to begin in September 2021 and be completed by August 2022.
This project was funded as part of our Spark Grant scheme, which sought to fund research projects looking to improve outcomes for children and families and build an evidence base in children’s social care.
The purpose of the Spark Grant Scheme was to fund additional research in children’s social care, conducted by researchers who might otherwise be under-represented in the research community, and/or who might struggle to get funding through other routes, with the aim of providing project leadership opportunities for researchers who may have not had the experience to date.
For further information about the Spark Grant Scheme or its projects, please contact the Programmes team: firstname.lastname@example.org