Born into care in Scotland: circumstances, recurrence and pathways

The report was commissioned as it is important to understand more about the circumstances in which removal of babies shortly after birth takes place in Scotland, and the work undertaken with parents to prevent separation where possible, and the children’s pathways and permanence outcomes.

3. Methods

The study used information recorded by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) in their case management system (CMS)[8] on all children who are referred to the Children's Hearings System (CHS). In addition to statistical data, case files include statutory documentation from Children's Hearings and courts, and reports from social work, police and other agencies.

Aggregate statistics were extracted from the data held by SCRA on the numbers of children becoming looked after away from home via the CHS each year from 2013/14 to 2019/20, broken down by age group and local authority. We also calculated incidence rates, the number of newborns (less than seven days) becoming looked after per 10,000 live births[9] at a national and local authority level. To consider the potential influence of deprivation, we used a local authority-level measure of the proportion of small areas (called data zones) in each local authority that are among the 20% most deprived in Scotland (SIMD20 local share, 2020).[10]

We then selected a random sample of 70 infants who became looked after away from home via the CHS (on a Compulsory Supervision Order, CSO) between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 before they were a year old. Information was collected from the children's case files and recorded against a defined set of variables on a proforma. The data extracted were non-identifiable and used for the purposes of this research only.

Information was collected for each infant, including individual and sibling characteristics, parent/family problems, whether they had previously been on a CSO at home or accommodated under Section 25. It was possible to identify whether an infant's parents had older children, and whether any of these had previously been looked after away from home. We were also able to collect information for two years after the infants in the sample became looked after away from home to establish how many had been reunified to parents and for how many there was a permanence plan in place.

There were instances where there were gaps in the information which was recorded, and we have noted those gaps, not least as records can be such an important source of information for care experienced children and adults (Hoyle et al., 2019, 2020).The ability to capture information depended on completeness of the case files, and often details were not recorded, particularly for fathers. For 12 of the infants in the sample, there was no information at all recorded about their fathers. No mention of a specific issue or experience in the files does not necessarily mean that it did not occur, only that it was not recorded in any of the documents. Thus, we can only speak in terms of 'at least' for any given measure included.

Data was collected in an excel spreadsheet, with analysis conducted in SPSS.

Approval for the study was granted by Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Science Ethics Committee.



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