Friday, May 9, 2014

The Foster Care System & Crime

I was recently contacted by someone who works for The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), which is the largest charity providing fostering and adoption services across the United Kingdom.  I was asked to share an infographic on my blog based on joint research conducted by TACT and the University of East Anglia which seeks to address the fact that foster children are overrepresented as offenders in the criminal justice system when compared to their young counterparts in the general population.  Incidentally, this has been the most extensive study into the criminal and foster care systems ever conducted in the UK.
The social scientist in me willingly obliged with sharing the findings of this research and as I looked over the data I recalled a few cultural differences/semantics between the U.K. and U.S. which I first learned when I read one of Cathy Glass's books:
U.K.= foster carers    U.S.= foster parents/resource parents
U.K= children in care  U.S.= foster children
U.K.= care system       U.S.= foster care system
(I think I prefer the term the U.K. uses to refer to children who are placed in foster care- they are first and foremost children who happen to be in foster care, rather than their label of "foster child" which, unfortunately, can have negative connotations.)
TACT fostering and adoption charity present this infographic on crime and the care systemBrought to you by TACT Fostering and Adoption Charity
I was pleased with the results of this research as shown in this infographic.  While it is true that children in foster care are twice as likely to offend than the general population, TACT and University of East Anglia's research have helped to dispel the misconception that entry into the foster care system is the reason that children in care offend.  Rather, their research points out that children coming into care already face many risk factors and obstacles before coming into care, including poverty, abuse and neglect, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. 
And, of course, the foster parent in me was happy to learn that perhaps the most significant finding of this research is that when children in care have access to a loving, stable placement, it serves as a protective factor against criminal activity.

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