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Approximately 28 per cent of identified victims of trafficking globally are children, UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking (ICAT) said today on the eve of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Across regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, children account for an even higher proportion of identified trafficking victims, at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.
UNICEF and ICAT believe the number of children who fall victim to trafficking is higher than current data suggests. The reality is that children are infrequently identified as victims of trafficking. Few come forward for fear of their traffickers, lack of information about their options, mistrust of authorities, fear of stigma or the likelihood of being returned without any safeguards and limited material support.
Refugee, migrant and displaced children are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Whether they are escaping war and violence or pursuing better education and livelihood opportunities, too few children find pathways to move regularly and safely with their families. This increases the likelihood that children and their family members will turn to irregular and more dangerous routes, or that children will move on their own, leaving them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, and exploitation by traffickers.
“Trafficking is a very real threat to millions of children around the world, especially to those who have been driven from their homes and communities without adequate protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “These children urgently need governments to step up and put measures in place to keep them safe.”
In many contexts, there is a lack of sustainable solutions for child victims of trafficking – including long-term assistance, rehabilitation, and protection. Many child protection systems remain under-resourced, and there is an acute lack of guardianship and other alternative care arrangements. Children are often placed in inadequate shelters, where they risk further traumatization and re-victimization. Trafficked boys can face additional challenges, as gender stereotypes can prevent them from getting or seeking the help they need, while girls may also be at risk of further exploitation and abuse due to gender discrimination and gendered poverty.
The UN children’s agency and ICAT continue to call for the implementation of government policies and cross-border solutions to keep these children safe, including:
29 July 2018
Experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning (LGBTQ) young people coming out in the care system are revealed in a new film premiering this weekend.
The six-minute animation promotes the findings of SpeakOut – a national study led by researchers at the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF).
The research focused not only on vulnerability and risk, but also on the strengths and resilience of these young people and the support offered by foster families and professionals working with them. It is the first and largest research project of its kind in England.
Six young researchers, who identify as part of the LGBTQ community and spent time living in care, made the film with UEA and the Creative Research Collective (CRC). They were keen to use their own experiences to help others in care, and to raise awareness of the needs of LGBTQ people in the care system and improve services.
The film with be screened at a public launch event on Saturday, July 28, as part of Norwich Pride celebrations.
The study itself involved interviews with 46 LGBTQ young people, together with 26 foster carers with experience of caring for LGBTQ young people. There was also a survey of 152 local authorities and focus groups with professionals, including social workers and those working in education and youth offending.
Lead researcher Dr Jeanette Cossar, of CRCF and UEA's School of Social Work, said: "The responses from the young people in particular provide powerful insights into both their personal journeys and their varied experiences of services. Their contribution enhanced every stage of this project.
"We hope the film and the recommendations we've made for those working in the care system will lead to a better understanding of the issues facing LGBTQ young people in care and ultimately improve services and support."
One of the young people involved in the project and featured in the film is Brett Service, from London. He said: "As a gay care leaver I got involved in this amazing project to improve services offered to both the current generation of LGBTQ children in care and care leavers, as well as any future generations.
"It is important that LGBTQ young people get the correct support from professionals involved in their care so they don't feel alone, unwanted or unsupported. In this project we have all been able use our expertise as care leavers as well as our expertise as members of the LGBTQ community to advocate on behalf of other young people who are LGBTQ to make the changes needed."
Findings from the project include:
The process of making the film involved three full-day workshops, during which the young people gathered with researchers and the CRC team to explore both their experiences and the main themes to emerge from the research. Through group exercises, discussions and interviews they decided on the message, the audience and the tone of the film. Artwork created by the young researchers was then animated and edited by CRC's Lizzy Hobbs.
The film will be available from July 28 on the SpeakOut project website: https://www.uea.ac.uk/speakout
25 July 2018
Source: University of East Anglia
A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit regarding alleged overuse of psychotropic medication by Missouri’s child welfare agency.
United States District Judge Nanette Laughrey announced in a decision dated July 19 that the plaintiffs in the case will include “all children in … foster care custody who presently are, or will be, prescribed or administered one or more psychotropic medications while in state care.”
The lawsuit was initiated by the National Center for Youth Law and Children’s Rights – two nonprofit litigators that have sued a combined dozens of state and local child welfare systems – against the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS).
The suit originally focused on three youths:
The class will immediately include more than 3,000 children currently in Missouri foster care with a psychotropic prescription.
Many of the psychotropics administered to the three initial plaintiff children fall into the category of antipsychotic medications, such as Seroquel and Abilify. These high-powered mental health drugs are prescribed to youth despite a dearth of evidence that they are safe and effective for treatment of young people.
In all three cases cited in this complaint, the children suffered serious side effects from the drugs, including suicidal thoughts and hyperthyroidism. And in all three cases, the plaintiffs allege that caregivers for the children were not provided with accurate and updated health and mental health records.
“All too often, accurate and complete medical information is not shared with either foster parents or physicians,” according to the complaint filed. “Moreover, the state has no system in place to avoid subjecting children to ‘outlier’ – too much, and too many, too young – prescriptions.”
Missouri is hardly the only in state in which the use of psychiatric medication on foster youth is an issue. One of the early, glaring warnings about overuse came in 2009 when a 7-year-old foster youth in Florida hung himself. The boy, Gabriel Myers, had already been prescribed three powerful psychiatric drugs: Lexapro, Zyprexa and Symbyax. Myers was on two of them at the time of his death.
In 2014, the Government Accountability Office noted some serious flaws in the accountabilityand tracking of such prescriptions and recommended that the federal government help states improve.
This is the third class action lawsuit brought by Children’s Rights against Missouri. The first, a 1977 case, focused on overall quality concerns of foster care in Jackson County. The case was not closed until 2006.
A second case, filed in 2005, successfully opposed the passage of a state law that would have eliminated the receipt of adoption subsidies (paid for in part by the federal government) by families in the state.
Last year, Children’s Rights gained class-action status for a lawsuit involving the mental health services provided by the state of Arizona.
By John Kelly
23 July 2018
The Women and Child Development or WCD Ministry has said that it has asked all states and Union territories to issue instructions for conducting inspection of all homes run by the Missionaries of Charity or MoC.
It also asked the states and the Union territories to identify all potential institutions and organisations which could be involved in unlawful activities.
The Women and Child Development Ministry has asked the states to keep a close watch on the maternity hospitals and other facilities, which may also act as potential places for illegal and child trafficking. The states have been asked to submit a status report by the end of the month.
The announcement comes days after Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi ordered all states to get the child-care homes run by the MoC inspected immediately.
The ministry also said they have instructed that all the state/Union territories should ensure that all registered child care institutions, whether run by a state government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations, are linked to specialised adoption agencies and are reflected in the online portal CARINGS within one month.
The Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System or CARINGS is an app providing the adoption services. It is linked to the Central Adoption Resource Authority or CARA, the top adoption body in the country.
The ministry said the move aims to address grave concerns that have come to notice, through media reports, that some organisations have been propagating illegal adoption outside the domain of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which is tantamount to child trafficking, the WCD Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry was hinting at the recent scandal at child care homes run by the MoC in Ranchi where staffers had allegedly sold four infants.
For speedy execution, the state governments and Union territories have also been asked to publish the directions in local newspapers to ensure compliance by the institutions within the stipulated period, failing which action may be taken against the non-complying institutions, it said in a statement.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 recognises CARA as the nodal agency for promoting and regulating in-country and inter-country adoptions, which is being facilitated through CARINGS.
When contacted by PTI, the MoC had denied the allegations and said they were ready for any kind of inspection.
In 2015, an ideological row between the ministry and the MoC surfaced over issues like the MoCs' denial to give children to separated or divorced parents. There was also a conflict over the MoCs not allowing adoption by single parents.
Ms Gandhi had then said the government would have to derecognise the organisation if it continued to defy the revised guidelines.
"They have cited ideological issues with our adoption guidelines related to giving a child up for adoption to single, unwed mothers. They have their own agenda and now when they have to come under a unified secular agenda, they are refusing it," the minister had said in a statement in 2015.
Following the row, the Missionaries of Charity has decided to stop putting children up for adoption.
21 July 2018
Source: Press Trust of India
A flagship government initiative allowing young people to remain in foster care after turning 18 is benefiting too few young people due to a lack of government funding, a charity has warned.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said that while the Staying Put initiative, which places a duty on councils to support looked-after children who want to remain with their foster carer until they are 21, is the right thing to do, as a policy it is "falling short in practice".
Data published by Ofsted in April revealed that the proportion of young people who remain in foster care after turning 18 has fallen to its lowest level since the introduction in 2014. Levels of fostered young people staying on after 18 are now lower than in 2013, prior to the introduction of the duty.
"A few years after its implementation, we have to face the fact that Staying Put, as a policy, is falling short in practice," Williams said. "Introducing a policy without sufficient resources to implement it properly is not good enough. The number of young people Staying Put is woefully low.
Writing in a blog in response to comments by former children's minister Edward Timpson, who said Staying Put was one of his proudest achievements in government, Williams said he is particularly concerned that there is no minimum allowance, meaning that 80 per cent of foster carers find themselves out of pocket when a young person stays on with them past 18.
"No foster carer should be financially worse off because they agree to a young person remaining living with them," Williams said.
"One solution that many local authorities appear to be using to help fill the funding gap is requiring young people who wish to stay put to claim housing benefit, which they are then expected to pass on to their former foster carer.
"We are very concerned about this as we do not believe that young care-leavers should be forced to claim benefits unnecessarily, nor do we believe that the relationship between a young person and their former foster carer should be changed into a transactional landlord/tenant arrangement – this undermines the strong relational benefits of Staying Put."
"The funding gap must be rectified as a matter of urgency, not least because evidence shows that investing in stability in early adulthood reduces public expenditure on services such as mental health, benefits and the justice system later in that young person's life."
Williams has also called for a culture shift within fostering services so that Staying Put is accepted as "the new norm".
"Just as over the past 15 years there has been a shift away from expecting children to leave care at 16, we now need a sector-wide understanding that fostered young people should be able to live at home until they are 21, and a determination to make this happen.
"Shockingly, feedback we have received from a recent foster carer survey has said that planning can start as late as the young person's 18th birthday.
"No wonder Staying Put isn't happening for so many young people – it should be considered as early as possible as part of the long-term care plan for all looked-after children and young people in a long-term or permanent placement."
Proposals to give children in residential care similar rights to continuing support past their 18th birthday -–so-called Staying Close arrangements – are currently being trialled in eight locations.
By Neil Puffett
19 July 2018
A veteran of B.C.’s social-services sector will serve as the next representative for children and youth.
Jennifer Charlesworth, former executive director of the Federation of Community Social Services, was chosen by an all-party committee of the B.C. legislature. She will replace current representative Bernard Richard when he steps down at the end of August after less than two years on the job.
Richard announced in April that he plans to return to his home province of New Brunswick to be closer to family and to support an Indigenous child-welfare initiative there.
NDP MLA Nicholas Simons, who chaired the selection committee, said Charlesworth was the unanimous choice of the panellists, including deputy chair Stephanie Cadieux, a minister of children and family development in the former B.C. Liberal government.
“I think her experience, her knowledge and her reputation, among other things, led the committee to conclude she’d be an excellent candidate for this position,” Simons said in an interview Monday. “We made the recommendation on that basis – that she’d do the best to ensure that our child-serving system is sound, is science-based, is culturally centred – and I think that’s what we achieved with that appointment.”
Charlesworth, 58, said she has wanted the job since it was first envisioned by former judge Ted Hughes in his 2006 report on B.C.’s child-welfare system.
As an independent officer of the B.C. legislature, the representative advocates for children and families, investigates deaths and critical injuries, and monitors the effectiveness of government services.
“I’ve kind of defined myself and my identity as an advocate for child and youth well-being since my early days in the field,” Charlesworth said. “I’m an old child-and-youth-care worker; that’s my background. And as time has gone on, and I’ve moved from frontline practice into systems and worked in various facets of the systems, I just thought there was a way to do advocacy that inspires change.
“So I’ve wanted to see what I can contribute at this point and see if I can weave in over four decades of good learning and many amazing teachers and lots of experiences to see if we can really move the needle on the dial in terms of the experience of vulnerable children and youth and their families.”
Charlesworth said one of her priorities will be tackling the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in the child-welfare system.
“For me it’s absolutely vitally important that my eyes are open wide and looking for every opportunity to support the work to not only reduce the over-representation … but to really address what it is children, youth and families in communities are experiencing that is getting in the way of their cultural connections, their well-being, their growth, their development, their self-determination.”
In addition to her frontline work in child welfare, Charlesworth has held management and executive roles within government, served as secretary to three cabinet committees, and was part of the executive team during the formation of the Children’s Ministry.
A mother of two adult daughters, Charlesworth has a doctorate in child and youth care from the University of Victoria and a master’s degree in business from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England.
Charlesworth is expected to serve in an acting role until her appointment can be confirmed by the B.C. legislature when it resumes sitting this fall.
By Lindsay Kines
16 July 2018
A new searchable, state-by-state database from the Juvenile Law Center catalogs the laws, policies and practices related to foster care for youth ages 18 and older. The Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative – which focuses on improving outcomes for emerging adults in the foster care system – supported the National Extended Foster Care Review as part of its ongoing commitment to share what works to help young people successfully transition to adulthood.
Topics covered include rules on eligibility, reentry for older youth, case management services, court oversight and subsidies to encourage family permanence. The resource is a significant step in building a stronger case for expanding the length of care across the nation, allowing policymakers, advocates and state agencies to see what's working in other states and where they stand in comparison – and, ultimately, to use that information to make improvements within their own systems.
“We know that continuing support through early adulthood leads to better long-term outcomes for youth in foster care across the board – from education and employment to financial and housing security,” says Todd Lloyd, a senior policy associate with the Foundation who supports the Jim Casey Initiative. “This database gives us our first comprehensive survey of the national policy landscape, which will enable us to identify what’s working and where we need to do better.”
While 45 states have policies that extend foster care eligibility past age 18, only about half currently take advantage of federal Title IV-E funding – allocated by law since 2008 – to provide services to young adults. Increasing that number to include all states is an important goal of the Jim Casey Initiative. Access to these federal resources allows states to extend the duration, quality and scope of care for young people as they become young adults, which helps to create the conditions that lead to stability and connection.
Another benefit for states is the additional oversight and accountability for outcomes that comes with federal funding. “The end goal is not for kids to just spend another three years in foster care,” Lloyd says, “but to develop policies and practices for successful extended care – care that is responsive and developmentally appropriate, promotes permanency, opens up new opportunities and gives young people a real shot at becoming healthy and secure adults.”
9 July 2018
Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Children's safety is being put at risk due to differing thresholds across England for intervening and offering support to families, a report by a group of MPs and peers has warned.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) report raises concerns about varied thresholds across councils for a range of support for children at risk of harm or in need of help.
The report includes a survey of 97 DCSs, which found that around three quarters (74 per cent) believe thresholds for supporting children in need differ across councils.
Just under two thirds (64 per cent) of DCSs said there are variations in thresholds for deciding when to put a protection plan in place because a child is at significant risk of harm. Meanwhile, around half (49 per cent) said there are differences in terms of when councils apply for a care order.
In addition, 83 per cent of DCSs said that thresholds for early help varied across councils. The APPGC report concludes that "protecting children has become a postcode lottery".
"The level of need a child has to reach in order to access support was found to vary across the country," states the report.
"Inconsistency appears to be particularly stark in relation to the provision of early help and wider preventative services."
"Local authorities should be empowered to set local priorities that respond to the specific needs of their populations.
"However, the APPGC believes that a postcode lottery in children's social care is unfair to children and families and is not acceptable."
The APPGC's report also details the results of a survey of 1,700 social workers, in which 70 per cent felt children in need thresholds had risen and half said that child protection plan thresholds had increased in recent years.
Evidence submitted to the inquiry by social workers and researchers indicates that funding constraints are influencing decisions on whether to intervene to support children.
"It is unacceptable that children's safety is potentially being undermined by a lack of sufficient resources," states the report.
Among recommendations made by the APPGC is for government to improve funding for children's social care and put in place a sustainable, long term funding settlement for early help services.
It also wants ministers to launch a consultation on whether councils should be legally obliged to offer early help.
"Children and families around the country with the same urgent needs are getting significantly different levels of help, and in some case, no support at all," said APPGC chair and former children's minister Tim Loughton.
"This is true for families who struggle to cope on low income, living in poor housing which puts their children's health in jeopardy. It's true for children who are harming themselves yet are kept waiting for treatment because they aren't at immediate risk of suicide. These people need help now, regardless of where they live.
"In some places, the pressure on children's services is so acute it is leaving social workers feeling that the only tool available to them to keep a child safe is to remove them from their family. As a result, families may look at these skilled and caring professionals with mistrust. But this is wrong. It is the woeful underfunding by government of a proper breadth of social care interventions that is to blame."
By Joe Lepper
11 July 2018
More action is needed to address the devastating impact of prolonged conflicts on the mental health of children and young people, experts said at a conference today.
Rebuilding Lives – hosted by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in partnership with UNICEF and with the participation of representatives from governments, United Nations agencies, humanitarian and civil society organizations – called for more support to programmes offering mental health and psychosocial services.
“When children grow up in armed conflict, their deep mental scars are often overlooked,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, speaking from Berlin. “Prolonged exposure to violence, fear and uncertainty can have a catastrophic impact on children’s learning, behaviour and emotional and social development for many years. If ignored, toxic stress from witnessing or experiencing traumatic events can lead to an increase in bedwetting, self-harm, aggressive or withdrawn behavior, depression, substance abuse and, at worst, suicide.”
Nearly 250 million children live in countries affected by violent conflicts, and an estimated 68 million people, half of them children, are displaced by conflict. In crisis countries in the Middle East and Africa, the impact of violence poses a heavy burden for a whole generation of children and young people. It also results in the marginalization of vulnerable groups, such as those with pre-existing mental conditions, the elderly, or persons with disability.
“Some of the things that children who are caught up in wars and crises see and experience remain with them and affect them for the rest of their lives. Our job is to give them back just a little bit of their childhood, in spite of everything. That is why the BMZ and UNICEF are working together to help hundreds of thousands of children in countries like South Sudan or in the crisis region around Syria by offering psychosocial support and programmes that are specially conceived for traumatised children. These children have a right to return to a normal life, with our help. The work that UNICEF is doing is of inestimable value and the UN children’s organisation is an important partner for us,” said Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Some children impacted by war, displacement and other traumatic events – such as sexual and gender-based violence – require specialized care to help them cope and recover.
Families and caregivers who have experienced serious traumatic events cannot be overlooked. Some may require specialized attention before they can continue to meet the needs of children in their care.
Participants in the conference called for collective action by policy makers, humanitarian and development agencies and academics to improve and scale up evidence-based and sustainable services, in support of the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of children, young people and vulnerable groups.
Existing community support networks, including parents, teachers, health and social service workers, and religious leaders, can play a critical role, they said.
UNICEF aims to provide psychosocial support services to 3.9 million children and young people affected by emergencies this year in countries like Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan. Community-based mental health and psychosocial activities, such as sport, art and games, promote safe, nurturing environments for children’s recovery, psychosocial wellbeing and protection.
Additionally, UNICEF ensures coordinated care through the development of referral systems for children, youth and families who may be at risk or need more specialized mental health care.
“As we witness an unprecedented number of complex and long-lasting humanitarian conflicts and crises, we can and must do more to prioritize the psychosocial needs of children and young people,” Fore said.
5 July 2018
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Friday that Trump administration officials have told him and his staff that they view placing separated migrant children in foster care as an equivalent to reuniting them with their families.
“The secretary told us on a conference call they do not have an intention to reunify these children with their parents,” Inslee said on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes,” appearing to refer to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“They’re going to call it good if they can find anybody else who can serve as a foster parent or anybody else who can serve as familial relationship, and these kids don’t even know these strangers,” he continued.
Inslee claimed that the Trump administration doesn’t plan on complying with a court order requiring that officials reunify all of the immigrant children separated from their families at the border under a since-ended Trump policy.
“It’s clear they do not intend to be humane and it’s clear they will continue on this course until he is removed from office,” the governor said, referring to Trump.
Inslee and five other Democratic governors signed a letter Friday to Trump officials, saying they were “deeply concerned that wholly inadequate resources and procedures are in place to ensure children and parents are reunified safely and securely.”
The letter also states that during a June 29 meeting with governors’ offices, administration representatives “shared that reunification may include the placement of separate children with any long-term sponsor,” including long-term foster care.
“If true, this interpretation appears to blatantly ignore the terms of the court order,” the letter reads.
Democratic Govs. Andrew Cuomo (New York), Dannel Malloy (Connecticut), Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania), Phil Murphy (New Jersey) and Kate Brown (Oregon) also signed the letter.
A court order last month gave the administration until July 10 to reunite separated immigrant children under the age of 5, and until July 26 to complete reunifications for children aged 5 to 17.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday requested an extension on the deadlines to reunite the children with their families.
"The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunification," DOJ lawyers wrote in a court filing, according to NBC News. "At the same time, however, the government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of the child."
By Jacqueline Thomsen
6 July 2018
The Andrews Labor Government is expanding key supports for vulnerable Aboriginal children in care to ensure they remain connected to culture, community and country.
At the Aboriginal Children’s Forum today, Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos announced $13.7 million to continue Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC), which enables Aboriginal agencies to assume legal responsibility for the welfare of a child in care.
The Australian-first initiative – which began last year – allows a child to receive culturally sensitive planning and case management from an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) that understands their needs.
Under the new funding boost, two extra case work teams will be recruited by 2020, to triple the number of Aboriginal children to receive case management to 108.
This funding – part of $53.3 million announced in the Victorian Budget 2018/19 to support Aboriginal children – will also enable ACAC to be delivered by a further two ACCOs, with a total of 216 children authorised plus a fourth ACCO in pre-authorisation phase by 2020.
A further $6.4 million will be provided to ACCOs to grow their services, and support an estimated 331 Aboriginal people to complete a VET or higher degree – including in social work or community services – or traineeships.
The Labor Government is also working to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal young people in the youth justice system by enhancing culturally appropriate programs.
As part of the $10.8 million investment through the latest Budget, $5 million will be used to continue to expand the Koori Youth Justice Program, which provides community-based intervention and responses for Aboriginal young people at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
The program provides early intervention assistance to Aboriginal young people while at school, as well as camps and other connecting-to-culture activities. There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of young people engaged in this program since 2017.
The Labor Government is prioritising Aboriginal child and family services under its landmark Roadmap for Reform agenda and the ground-breaking tripartite agreement, Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement.
We are building family and community capacity, reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care and keeping children who cannot live safely at home connected to their extended family, culture and country.
“We’ve invested $225 million in Aboriginal child and family services since 2014 – more than doubling the investment by the previous Liberals Government.”
“The future of Aboriginal children matters – and that’s why we will continue to prioritise Aboriginal self-determination and focus on improving outcomes for them.”
Minister for Families and Children
27 June 2018
The children’s commissioner for England has said the risks faced by deprived young people are “the biggest social justice challenge of our time”, after publishing research that suggests one in six minors live in families affected by parental addiction, mental illness or domestic violence.
Anne Longfield said that of the estimated 2.1 million children in England in vulnerable family situations, as many as 1.6 million were “invisible” to a social support system that effectively ignored them until their problems escalated to crisis point, at which they risked being taken into care.
“I am increasingly frustrated by the number of vulnerable children who cannot meet their own ambitions because they are let down by a system that doesn’t recognise or support them,” Longfield said.
About 825,000 children under the age of 18 live with an adult who has experienced domestic violence in the past year, the research calculates, 470,000 live with an adult who is dependent on drink or drugs and 890,000 live with a parent who has severe mental health problems.
An estimated 103,000 children, including 52,000 under-fives, live with an adult with what is known as the “toxic trio”, meaning they carry the burden of all three risk issues simultaneously.
Longfield said the government had a moral and economic imperative to invest in so-called early intervention services, from psychological counselling to youth clubs, that could help at-risk young people overcome challenges and give them the best chance in life possible.
“The social, educational and economic costs of failing to help these children are clear,” she said. “However, beyond all of this is a moral argument about whether we are prepared to deny children who need our support … I believe that supporting vulnerable children is the biggest social justice challenge of our time.
“I don’t pretend that meeting this challenge will be easy or that it can be done for free. It will require additional resources. But more than that, it requires a paradigm shift in our approach to children so that we move from a system which marginalises vulnerable children to one which embraces them.”
A child would not necessarily have a poor life because they were identified as being exposed to high levels of risk, she said. “For a good proportion of these children, the support of families and a good experience in school will be enough to ensure they have happy and fulfilled childhood, despite adversity.”
About 570,000 children receive support through children’s social care or the troubled families programme, meaning that up to 1.6 million get no known structured help outside of a “patchwork provision” involving their family and/or community and voluntary services.
The researchers admit there are “substantial weaknesses” in the data, drawn from statistics and surveys compiled by various government agencies and departments, but insist they are conservative estimates that provide “the best available ballpark figures” of child vulnerability.
Government spending on early intervention services for children through local authorities has been reduced by 60% since 2010. The research says investing in these services is cost-effective compared with the expense of putting a child into care, which can be as much as £55,000 a year.
Local authorities have said there is a growing crisis in children’s social care caused by increasing numbers of children being taken into care or made subject to child protection plans as a result of the failure to provide early support for families.
Javed Khan, chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, said: “These shocking figures bring home the impact of domestic abuse on children. We know from our specialist services that they are victims and not just witnesses, even if abuse and violence isn’t aimed directly at them.”
Imran Hussain, the director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “It’s our most vulnerable children who are paying the price for the punishing central government cuts to council budgets and being left without the early help they desperately need.”
By Patrick Butler
4 July 2018
For the majority of affected youth, anxiety disorders are chronic, even after a successful course of evidence-based treatments, reports a study published in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).
Pediatric anxiety disorders are common psychiatric illnesses, affecting approximately 10 percent of children. In one of the largest comparative treatment studies, researchers found that 12 weeks of sertraline and/or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were effective in reducing anxiety and improving functioning. In the newly released follow-up study, researchers re-contacted these youths an average of six years later and then re-assessed them annually for up to four additional years.
Researchers found that 22 percent of youth who received 12 weeks of treatment for an anxiety disorder stayed in remission over the long term, meaning they did not meet diagnostic criteria for any anxiety disorder (defined as any DSM-IV TR anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder). 30 percent of youth who had received treatment remained chronically ill, meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder during each year of follow-up, and 48 percent relapsed, meaning they met diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder at some, but not all follow-ups.
"When you see so few kids stay non-symptomatic after receiving the best treatments we have, that's discouraging," said one of the study's principal investigators, Dr. Golda Ginsburg, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Hartford, CT, USA. "However, we found no difference in outcomes by treatment type. Children were just as likely to stay in remission after treatment with medication as they were after treatment with CBT," Dr. Ginsburg added.
Specifically, 319 youth and young-adults (the mean age at first follow-up assessment was 17 years) were followed from 2011 through 2015 (65 percent of the 488 youth included in the original treatment study). The researchers conducted annual evaluations that assessed, among other factors, diagnoses, school and social functioning, and service use. Findings indicated that at each follow-up year, approximately half of the youth remained in remission. When examined across all years of the follow-up, that number dropped to 22 percent, while 30 percent continued to meet criteria for an anxiety disorder at every annual evaluation.
The researchers found several factors that predicted which anxious youth were most likely to be in stable remission over the follow-up period. These factors included those who showed clinical improvement after 12 weeks of treatment; males; youth without a social phobia diagnosis; youth who had better family functioning; and those who experienced fewer negative life events.
The researchers concluded that while it may be optimistic to expect that 12 weeks of treatment resulted in long-term remission, it is now clear that more needs to be done to help anxious youth – including treatments that are more durable and a better mental health wellness model that includes regular check-ups to prevent relapse and improve outcomes over time.
28 June 2018