The key findings of Listen Up! are:
• the view that being fostered is generally a more positive experience than living in residential care is not supported, with almost a third more reporting a ‘mainly positive’ experience of being in residential care compared to foster care.
• one third of participants also declared that they had a ‘mainly positive’ experience of the care system. These positive experiences are seriously under-represented within existing research.
• the common view that care leavers are subject to poor educational outcomes may be missing the effect of a return to education much later in life for many whose initial education was disrupted by being in care. We found large numbers of well-educated care leavers, contradicting existing data taken at a much younger age.
Will McMahon Chair of the Care Leavers’ Association said:
‘Our findings are somewhat at odds with the last two decades of policy, which has witnessed the closure of many residential settings; perhaps the idea that a secure base for those in care can only be created by mimicry of the nuclear family is misplaced, given that for some it was the nuclear family setting that was the original place of harm.
‘It should go without saying that care leavers who had mainly positive experiences offer an enormous resource to those who want to implement a ‘what works’ agenda for children in care today: the answer to the question ‘what was positive?’ by care leavers of all ages offers an inter-generational thread of good practice.’
Zachari Duncalf, Executive Member of the Care Leavers’ Association and report author said:
‘When we first thought of putting a research questionnaire together we never dreamed we would get so many responses within such a short space of time. I’m amazed and grateful to all the care leavers who have shared their experiences with us and enabled us to shed light on the lives of care leavers throughout the lifecourse.’
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