Looked-after children grown up

The adverse life-long consequences of being looked after as a child are well recognised. However, systematic evidence on outcomes for looked-after children beyond the early adult years is currently very limited.

This study will begin to fill that gap by exploring the long-term consequences of being cared for in institutional or family settings using data from the Office of National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS LS).  ONS LS contains linked census and life events data for a 1% sample of the population of England and Wales. Members of the study can be identified who were children at the time of each decennial census and living in i) residential care; ii) as an unrelated member of an individual household; iii) as a biological or adopted child in a parental household; and iv) as a child in a relative household.

The study will examine the health and social outcomes in adulthood of sequential cohorts of children, comparing the outcomes of children cared for in residential and foster care family situations (either formal or informal) with children living with relatives (parental and other). The outcomes for looked-after and care-givers’ children in the same household will also be examined, and the study will identify the extent to which mothers who had lived in different care arrangements as children have their own children living with them or elsewhere. 

The analysis of sequential cohorts offers potential to explore whether outcomes have changed in the context of different policy and practice contexts, and to identify if there is evidence for resilience and recovery over time. The findings on the outcomes for today’s adults are also relevant to the wider policy context