REPORT DETAILS

Outcomes for Black Children in Care: A rapid evidence review synthesis

This Rapid Review explores the body of work already focussing on Black children in care and highlights existing evidence gaps

Focus areas

Children & families

THEMES

Download report

Full report
(PDF, 2MB)

Published January 2022

Summary

This report presents the findings of a Rapid Review of the body of work focussing on outcomes of Black children in care, specifically reunification, placement stability, mental and physical health, and educational outcomes.

The Rapid Review highlights a lack of evidence on outcomes for Black children in care, particularly around reunification, placement stability and health and exclusions. Where research was available, the existing research suggests that Black children in care fare similarly or better than White children in care when looking at health and educational outcomes. However, the individual findings should be carefully considered in light of the rating of the evidence as low strength.

The report highlights a need for more research, using robust methodologies, to understand whether these findings persist across different contexts. Further research should also consider the role of differences in pathways into care by ethnic group in predicting outcomes. The report also recommends that future research adopts a more nuanced approach to assessing differences in outcomes by ethnic groups, especially given that the few studies that differentiate between Black African and Black Caribbean children found different outcomes for each group.

Following the completion of the rapid review, we organised a roundtable discussion with some of our Young Advisors to hear their views on the findings. You can read a summary of their responses here. Two of the participants also discuss the roundtable discussion in this short video:

Objectives

This review sought to understand whether outcomes for Black children in care in the UK differ from children from other ethnic groups. We examined the following outcomes: reunification, placement stability, health (mental and physical) and educational outcomes (attainment and exclusions).

How we went about it

We searched one academic database (SCOPUS) and several websites, including the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), Community Care, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and government publications. Empirical research was included in the review if it focussed on the outcomes of Black children in care in the UK. Included outcomes were rates of reunification, mental and physical health and education. We excluded any work that was published before 2000 and limited findings to journal articles, working papers and reports commissioned by organisations investigating outcomes for looked after children.

Key findings

Outcome 1: Reunification

There is a lack of evidence on differences in reunification outcomes between Black children in care and other ethnic groups in the UK. We found no studies that considered the reunification outcomes of Black children in particular.

Outcome 2: Placement stability

Limited evidence finds no differences in absconding behaviour and mixed evidence on placement moves. Only one study focussed on absconding behaviour, finding that Black children were found to be no more likely to go missing from care than White young people; this study had a high risk of bias however. Two other studies found that Black children in care experience a similar number or even lower placement moves than White children in care.

Outcome 3: Health

Limited evidence on physical health finds no differences in long-term health outcomes between Black and Asian care-experienced young people and mixed evidence for differences between Black and White care-experienced adults. Sacker et al. (2021) found that having been in care was not associated with poorer health for Black and Asian adults in their 20s to 40s compared to adults from the same ethnic group that had not been in care. On the other hand, White adults in their 40s that were care experienced had a higher probability of a limiting long-term illness compared to White adults that had not been in care. However, the study does not explore whether this difference is due to differences in health outcomes in the non-care experienced population, or due to differences by ethnic group among the care-experienced population.

Outcome 4: Education

Studies suggest higher educational attainment for Black children in care compared to White children in care when looking at A levels and KS4 (GSCE) scores, but mixed evidence when comparing educational attainment for Black and Asian children in care.

Implications / Next steps

This review highlights a lack of evidence on outcomes for Black children in care, particularly around reunification, placement stability and health and exclusions. Where research was available, the existing research suggests that Black children in care fare similarly or better than White children in care when looking at health and educational outcomes.

The individual findings should be carefully considered in light of the rating of the evidence as low strength. The number of studies found for each outcome was small with two to four studies per finding. In addition, several studies suffered from low sample size, and/or were conducted in a small number of local authorities.

More research is needed to see whether these findings persist across different contexts using more robust methodologies, and should consider the role of differences in pathways into care by ethnic group in predicting outcomes. Future research should also adopt a more nuanced approach to assessing differences in outcomes by ethnic groups, especially given that the few studies that differentiate between Black African and Black Caribbean children found different outcomes for each group.