Children in the care of the state

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter discusses children who are in the care of the state and reflects on the inter-relationship between the care and youth justice systems. The chapter begins by presenting a brief historical and conceptual overview of state intervention for children at risk of harm and outlines the development of relevant legislation in England. The second section explores contemporary issues relating to children in the care of the state, including the characteristics of children in the care of the state, types of placement, children’s experiences of, and outcomes from, care. The final section considers the relationship between care and youth justice, highlighting why children who are or have been in the care of the local authority may be over-represented within the youth justice system. Due to different legal and policy contexts, the focus of the chapter is on England and, to a lesser extent, Wales. However, the underlying theories have resonance across many countries.

There is debate over the language used to describe children who are or who have previously been in care, and in describing and recording their experiences (such as ‘contact’ with family members). For example, there are objections to the term ‘care-leaver’ which suggests that the young person actively chose to leave care, rather than being left (and perhaps feeling abandoned) by the care system. Similarly, the use of ‘LAC’ (‘looked after child’) as an abbreviation is dehumanising and has connotations of ‘lacking’. Mindful of these debates, this chapter refers to ‘children in care’ and ‘care-experienced’ children, young people and adults.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Policy and Youth Justice Reader
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 May 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice


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