Although children in care constitute only 0.6% of the child population in England, they account for a disproportionate 10% of referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Despite this high prevalence of mental health need shown by the population of children in care, there is a dearth of knowledge on the longitudinal trajectories of mental health and the mechanisms by which State care influence their mental health.This research which maps on to the ESRC strategic priority area of mental health, will address this gap in knowledge and establish the long-term trajectories, mediators and moderators of mental health of children in State care in England.
It will specifically address the following research questions:
1. How does mental health of children in care change over time?
2. What pathways of care improve/stabilise/decrease mental health concerns of children?
3. Are there different mental health outcomes for different groups of children in care?
4. How can results from this study be used to drive changes to policy and practice?
The project will use a mixed method design to explore the four research questions, combining advanced quantitative analyses of administrative data on children in care and data from a survey of children. One of the study’s innovations will be to use latent trajectory statistical modelling techniques to establish the longitudinal trajectories, mediators and moderators of mental health of children in care.