This dissertation is based around the role of corporate parenting in looked after children. It will discuss and explore the role of corporate parenting in general with the exposed group: looked after children as this is relevant to practice experience as it is based upon 80 days work placement.
The concept of Corporate Parenting was first introduced in September 1998 by the Secretary of State for Health Frank Dobson, as one part of the government's Quality Protects program to make over children's services. It emphasized the key role that chosen members would play.
The Government's Quality Protects Initiative (1998) requires local authorities to identify children with additional family burdens and to provide services that are geared to ensure these children's education and general development do not suffer." (www.doh.gov.uk/qualityprotects)â€Œ
When a child becomes 'looked after', the responsibilities of their parent become the liability. And it is required to serve everyone working for the council as elected members of the council.
This is known as 'corporate parenting' and it is the collective responsibility of the council to provide the best possible care and protection for children who are 'looked after'. As a corporate parent, we should act in the way we would if the child were our own. (http://www.southglos.gov.uk/NR/exeres/b10f32d0-3db1-4b38-980d-147f4ad1f6d4)
1.2 Who are Corporate Parents?
Corporate parenting contains any person who has responsibility for the care and security of children. The concept of corporate parenting relates to the collective duties and responsibilities of the Local Authority for looked after children' safeguard and to promote the life.
Corporate Parenting' is a collective responsibility of the Council, with Councillors having a distinct role to play in ensuring that the outcomes and life chances of looked after children are maximized ( The Role of Councillors as Corporate Parents May 2005 Scrutiny Review Group).
The essential principle of Corporate Parenting is that all councillors and staff employed by the Council should parent the Looked After children and young people in their concern as they would their own children.
All selected members of the Council have a duty to act as a Corporate Parent to children in the care of that Council. The function of the Corporate Parent (Councillors) is to make sure that the services provided by the Council as an entire contribute to achieving constructive outcomes for kids in care.
Specifically, they must guarantee that children in their care are:
enjoy and accomplish in life
make a positive input to society
achieve economic security
In order to implement this responsibility, Councillors must be:
Should be well informed about the children for whom they are responsible
Need to think about how they are affected by council decisions
Must listen to what children and young people say
Must be a supporter for children and young people.
1.3 Who are looked after children?
The phrase "Looked After" was commenced by the Children Act 1989 and refers to children and young people:
under the age of 18
who live away from their family or parents
are supervised by a social worker from the local council children's services department.
The term 'Looked after children' applies to those children who are looked after by a local authority when either:
They are accommodated by the LA at the request of a person with parental responsibility, or because they are lost or abandoned, or because there is no person with responsibility for them (S. 20 Children Act 1989)
They are placed in the care of the LA by a court (part IV Children Act 1989) Interim Care Order or Full Care Order
In very rare cases children and young people may also become 'looked after' via Ward ship proceedings (High Court's exercise of its inherent jurisdiction independent of stature (Children Act 1989)
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They are subject to emergency orders to secure their immediate protection, (Part V Children Act 1989) Emergency Protection Orders or Police Orders or are remanded by a court to the care of the LA (S. 23 Children & Young Persons Act 1969)
In very rare cases children and young people may also become 'looked after' via Wardship proceedings (High Court's exercise of its inherent jurisdiction independent of stature (Children Act 1989)
For most children, care is proposed to be time-limited with the mean that the child will return home as soon as possible. (The Children Act 1989) aims to get a balance between the need to protect children from destruction and the need to protect children and families from unnecessary intervention.
It encourages arrangements for services to children to be agreed between the parents and the service providers whenever possible. The Act embodies the belief that children are best looked after within the family unit without legal intervention unless this is inconsistent with their welfare and safety.
1.4 Why is corporate parenting necessary?
Children may be looked after for many different reasons, including protection from harm and abuse. Children have had a long history of being looked after away from home, in such places as institutions, orphanages, foster homes, approved schools and borstals (Department of Health 1998a).
Parents who are unable to look after their child may ask a local authority to do so. Children can become "looked after" for a numerous reasons; some children may have been abused or suffered distressing experiences, some may be in care due to family illness or the death of a parent. Others may have complex needs or disabilities and be unable to be cared at home. Often children who become "looked after" for a short time period due to family problem like some children do not have a parent or relative to look after them, possibly because of death or serious illness or because they have been separated.
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Young people aged over 16 years may choose to be looked after for a variety of reasons, including abuse, domestic violence or stress at home. Local authorities must provide accommodation for children who are lost, abandoned, or whose parents are unable to care for them. Authorities shall provide accommodation for any child in need in their area who appears to them to require it as a result of there being no person with parental responsibility for him, or because he is lost and abandoned, or because the person who has been caring for him is prevented from providing suitable accommodation or car (Section 20 (1) CA 1989)
Section 20(3) of the Act gives local authorities a duty to provide accommodation for a child age 16 and 17 years if the authority considers that his welfare will be seriously prejudiced without such a service
A local authority may provide accommodation for any young person who has reached the age of sixteen but is under twenty-one if they consider that to do so may safeguard and promote his welfare, even if their parent objects. (Section 20 (5)-(11) CA 1989)
The Government's aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to give the support they need to:
Improving outcomes also involves narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. The Government is focusing particularly on improving outcomes for looked-after children
Ed Balls says in his letter to looked-after children: 2009
"We want to make sure you have the same chances as other children to fulfill your dreams and to be happy."
When there is breakdown and a child has to be removed from its family, the local authority is then expected to act as the corporate parent and to provide substitute care.
The job is delegated to a local authority department, and its paid professional agents social workers, foster carers or residential staff act on behalf of the wider community.
And when they leave care, they are on their own, having to find their way in the world. It is no wonder that a high proportion of care leavers end up in prison, or with mental health problems, or with unplanned pregnancies, or in abusive relationships.
The study aimed to discover from children their views on being looked after and the degree of power they felt they had to manipulate decisions made about them. Total fifteen looked after children were interviewed. Social workers were asked to identify children who met the criteria of between ten to seventeen and having been in care for at least two years. The children were given a questionnaire from the researcher to explain the purpose of the study and asked if they were ready to be interviewed.
The method was selected, however, because confidentiality prohibited the researcher being given names and addresses without the children's permission. It is not clear how many children were carry forwarded and rejected. Of those who initially said they would participate, later on dropped while arranging their interviews, leaving a total sample of fifteen. This comprised:
Gender: Girls: 7 Boys: 8
Length of time in care (based on children's report):
Type of care: only two were in residential care, the remainder in advance care.
Children were given a common view of the research aim. But the interviews were decided to be conducted in unstructured way. They were informed that the examiner wanted to hear their vision on how much they are told about what is happening to them, whether they feel their standpoint is listened to, and whether they are supposed to feel as they are involved in decisions made about their lives.
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Research involving children creates particular moral dilemmas in that they are typically less powerful than the adult researcher (Thomas and O'Kane,1998). The unstructured interview was chosen in that it gave them maximum control over the research process and ensured that each child talked only of those topics that mattered to them and could avoid personal issues they did not want to discuss with a stranger.
Because of the promise of confidentiality, care has been taken in reporting the findings to ensure that no individual can be identified.
The importance of the social worker
All mentioned the importance of the social worker in their lives. The social worker was seen as very powerful and, when the relationship worked well, as a very strong ally. One described the qualities needed in a social worker as:
Someone who can talk to children, get to know them, take them out, and phone regularly so they keep in touch with what is happening.
Most could remember at least one social worker with whom they had got on particularly well and who had made them feel well cared for and supported.
'She would sort out anything that was bothering me'.
The biggest complaint about social workers (from eight children) was the high turnover and the subsequent interruption for them.
Social workers were also criticised for their reliability in everyday matters such as keeping appointments on time or holding reviews on time. Children interpreted this carelessness as a sign of their low priority in the social worker's life.
However, Butler and Williamson's research bears out both the approving and critical opinions. They report that many children are seeking a 'more emotional, empathic level of interaction' but that the experience for many is, in contrast, an 'almost technical, allegedly 'robotic' nature of professional interventions in children's lives'(1994, p.84).
It is essential to share information for good planning and care but, from the child's point of view, this can seem very intrusive. Again, the problem reflects the normal processes of growing up. Teenagers develop autonomy and increasing privacy as part of maturation but, for a child in care, it is difficult to achieve that same sense of privacy. Several of the older teenagers complained of the lack of confidentiality and, hence, a reluctance to share their thoughts and feelings because it would all get written down in their file and read by strangers.
Butler and Williamson's research also highlighted the importance and perceived lack of confidentiality to children: 'there is a pervasive feeling amongst children and young people that even a commitment to confidentiality is, too often, a 'false promise' and that information divulged will then be 'spread around' without the consent of the individual concerned' (1994, p.78).
2.2 Anti-discriminatory practice:
Only one young person spoke his experience of racism. He was a seventeen year old black man who complained that he was continually stopped and questioned by the police and that white women looked fearful and crossed the road to avoid him. Since he had no record of crime or violence, he felt this was completely unfair and due to racism.
This is only a small sample so the responses cannot be taken as representative of the views of looked after children in general. However, it is possible to examine the issues they raised and discuss the challenges they pose to professionals endeavoring to listen to their voices whether or not they are typical.
There are approximately 61,000 children and young people in care in UK, with boys comprising 55% of that population. These statistics are almost a quarter higher than those of a decade ago. Of this group, more than two out of three children live in foster care, and just over one in ten in residential care (children's homes). An estimated 1% of care leavers progress to University, compared with 37% of young people in the population as a whole (Jackson et al 2003).
The outcome nationally is poor for looked after children and there is an over-representation of previously looked after children amongst those who are homeless, unemployed or in prison. In 2002, 6% of all school leavers were unemployed. Of this figure, 25% were young people in the care of were unemployed. Of this figure, 25% were young people in the care of Local Authorities. There is a high proportion of these children who suffer from poor mental health or become teenage parents with looked after children being 5 times more likely to develop mental illness than their peers. If the child also has a disability or comes from a black or minority ethnic background they face a double jeopardy and are at greater disadvantage. There remain a disproportionate number of disabled children accommodated by local authorities. Only one per cent of Looked After Children go to University.
3.1 THE ROLE OF CORPORATE PARENTING
The role of corporate parent is defined in 'Think Child' (1999) as the following:
Finding out getting the facts and follow them up, Make decisions by playing your part in the business of the council, Listening to children and young people also finding out from them how council's services work for them and remembering that children are citizens too. To be a champion for children by taking a lead in the community in putting children first. This strategy embeds the following core values that all Children in Care should benefit from:
A positive sense of identity and self-worth.
Belonging to a family 'in the widest sense' and also a community.
A safe, healthy, child-friendly environment, including appropriate housing, play and leisure facilities.
Freedom from bullying.
A right to privacy.
Equal access to services.
Children in care have a unique relationship with the state. The local authority fulfils some, or all, of the traditional parenting role - this can happen on many levels, from decisions about their day to day care through to decisions about where a child will live and which school they will attend. This responsibility has become known as 'corporate parenting' in recognition that the task must be shared by the local authority as a whole, from lead members to frontline practitioners. Strong corporate parenting arrangements are central to improving services for children and young people in care.
Improving the role of the corporate parent, as part of children's trusts, is key to improving the outcomes for children in care. It is with the corporate parent that responsibility and accountability for the wellbeing and future prospects of children in care ultimately rest. A good corporate parent must offer everything that a good parent would, including stability. It must address both the difficulties which children in care experience and the challenges of parenting within a complex system of different services. Equally, it is important that children have a chance to shape and influence the parenting they receive.
3.2 WHERE ARE THE PROBLEMS?
The circumstances and experiences of looked-after children and young people have shown that they can experience many disadvantages. Research indicates that looked-after children experience poorer outcomes than other children across a range of measures, including health and education.
To achieve these outcomes, councils must demonstrate their commitment to helping every child they look after - wherever the child is placed to achieve their potential.
The complicated role of parenting happens on many levels - from basic decisions about their day to day care and the quality of the emotional support they receive, through to big decisions about where a child will live and what school they attend as well as imparting values which help to shape their future aspirations and ambitions.
For most children, these different levels are fulfilled by the same people but it is more complex for children in care. And children and young people in care themselves have told us repeatedly that they want and need stability and continuity of care so that those who look after them do not change so frequently. The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that the quality of care which children experience meets their need for a secure attachment and promotes their resilience and that this is achieved as far as possible without the need for a series of placements before finding the right one.
For the first time, the Department for Children, Schools and Families presented data on the emotional and behavioral health of looked-after children and young people, finding that about 60% of those looked after in England were reported to have emotional and mental health problems. It also reported that a high proportion of looked-after children and young people experience poor health, educational and social outcomes after leaving care (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2009c).
A government strategy for children and young peopleâ€Ÿs health noted that a third of all children and young people in contact with the criminal justice system have been looked after (Department for Children, Schools and Families and DH 2009).
3.3 EVERY CHILD MATTERS
Green Paper, 2003, led to the Children Bill, which was presented to Parliament in March 2004 and is now enacted as the Children Act 2004. The Act sets out a long term programme for change for children's services across the country. It places a duty on all Local Authorities to produce a plan which addresses disadvantage, raises achievement and safe guards children and young people in their area.
This legislation is the legal underpinning for Every Child Matters, which sets out the Government's approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19.
The aim of the Every Child Matters program is to give all children the support they need to:
enjoy and achieve
make a positive contribution
achieve economic well-being.
The Every Child Matters agenda has been further developed through publication of the Children's Plan in December 2007. The Children's Plan is a ten-year strategy to make England the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. It places families at the heart of Government policy, taking into account the fact that young people spend only one-fifth of their childhood at school. Because young people learn best when their families support and encourage them, and when they are taking part in positive activities outside of the school day, the Children's Plan is based around a series of ambitions which cover all areas of children's lives.
The Plan aims to improve educational outcomes for children, improve children's health, reduce offending rates among young people and eradicate child poverty by 2020, thereby contributing to the achievement of the five Every Child Matters outcomes. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/about/
This strategy reflects many of the initiatives recommended in the Children Bill and subsequent Act and demonstrates the commitment of the Council to discharge its duties and improve children's services. The development of Children's Trust arrangements will bring together representatives from key agencies and Primary Care Trusts. Whilst the Council's responsibilities towards looked after children are discharged primarily through the and Young Person's Department, the Council recognises the significant contribution to the well being of looked after children and their carers to be made by other Council departments and therefore requires, as part of this strategy, the effective and executive engagement of all service departments in meeting the needs of this group of vulnerable children and young people.
3.4 WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING ABOUT THIS PROBLEM?
In 2003, the Government published a Green Paper called Every Child Matters alongside the formal response to the report into the death of Victoria Climbié. After a thorough consultation process, the Children Act 2004 became law. This legislation is the legal underpinning for Every Child Matters, which sets out the Government's approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19.
The aim of the Every Child Matters programme is to give all children the support they need Looked-after children have a right to expect the outcomes we want for every child.
These are that they:Enjoy the best health and live a healthy lifestyle .Are kept safe from harm and neglect and feel secure at all times .Are given the chance to learn and achieve, and enjoy leisure time .Are given the opportunity to make the most out of life and take a full part in the community .Grow up in a strong and secure family situation and achieve rewarding adult lives .( The Charter for Children and Young People )
( Every Child Matters Agenda)
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