Professor Julie Selwyn and Shirley Lewis

Oxford University Research Archive 2023

Research reviews of the contact arrangements for children in care have highlighted gaps in evidence.

Using data from 9,316 looked after children in England and Wales aged four to 18 years, the analysis aimed to gain an understanding of children’s views of their contact arrangements. Data came from the Your Life, Your Care wellbeing surveys distributed by 42 English and Welsh local authorities between 2016 and 2020.

The analysis confirmed some previous findings but challenged others. While previous UK research has emphasised that the quality of contact is more important than frequency, from the young people’s perspective frequency was equally important. Most children wanted more contact with specific individuals (and their pets) to understand why decisions had been made and wanted contact to be normalised and in the community at times to suit their and their family’s circumstances.

Children in kinship placements more frequently had contact, but a quarter of the sample had no parental contact. Being in residential care, male and of an ethnic minority background were associated with dissatisfaction.

Life satisfaction was not associated with whether parental contact was or was not occurring but was statistically associated with whether young people felt their contact arrangements were ‘Just right’. Recommendations for improving practice and a tool to help agencies audit their services have been developed.