At Home in Care: Children living with birth parents on a Care Order

Montserrat Fargas Malet, Dominic Mc Sherry, John Pinkerton, Greg Kelly

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This study explored the processes, background information, and perceived reasons why children and young people returned home while remaining in care, in the five HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland. The research also focused on understanding the functions the Care Order had for social services, the birth parents, and young people involved. It was found that on 31st March 2009, there were 193 children/young people living with their birth parents on a Care Order in Northern Ireland. This is eight per cent of the total population of Looked After children, and is lower than had been anticipated from governmental statistics. In total, the case files of 47 of these young people (24% of them) were reviewed, and interviews were conducted with ten of them and their birth parent/s. The analysis revealed that the majority of them had in common a parental background history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, and most return breakdowns in the study were related to continuing parental alcohol and/or drugs misuse. While some children had a planned return home after parents had engaged in supports and completed assessments, many young people had returns that were not planned, as they initiated the move themselves, or previous foster placements had broken down and there were no alternative placements identified for them. Many of these young people essentially ‘voted with their feet’, and social services were required to ensure that they remained safe in often less than optimal circumstances.After returning home, for many, Care Orders remained for initially unintended lengthy periods because of the risks posed by parents’ intermittent alcohol abuse and their lifestyle, contact issues, and parents’ desire to ensure that their children were able to access the supports that they needed. Thus, Care Orders at home tended to serve two main functions: to either monitor and/or support the placement.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2014


  • Care
  • Care Order
  • Looked After
  • Rehabilitation
  • Return home


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