Children and Mental Health
I have been reading an interesting report by National Statistics into the Mental Health of young people looked after by local authorities in England.
It points out for example that for 5-10 years olds 42% of the children (looked after by local authorities) are thought to have a "mental disorder" as opposed to 8% of "private household children".
There is a question as to why. Clearly there are two potential sources of cause. One is the experiences of the child before becoming formally "looked after". The other the the effect of being "taken into care".
The only way of checking out this situation and finding out what are the key drivers is to have controls. The only available controls are other countries. It is clear that a substantial number of children are taken into care who should not be. What is not clear is what proportion of those taken into care fall into that category.
Another useful piece of information is that which looks at the prevalence of mental disorder compared to the time in the current placement.
This shows a gradual reduction in disorders as the time in a particular placement extends. The figures are under 1 year 49.4%, 2 47.4, 3 45.4, 4 39.6, 5 39 over 5 years 31%.
In a sense this justifies the argument that the process of being taken into care causes problems for children.
It remains, however, that the stress caused to children by being taken away from their home when nothing was actually wrong in the first instance should not be ignored.
It is difficult to make the finely balanced decisions as to when to intervene. However, what is very clear is that on average intervention notwithstanding the good efforts of foster parents, is damaging.