“What Happened Next”: A study of outcomes for maltreated children following care proceedings
Mulcahy G., Badger JR., Wright H., Erskine C.
This is the first report from a study of outcomes for 114 children from 49 families assessed in an expert multi-disciplinary service during care proceedings. The study investigated the extent of children’s adaptation following judicial decisions made in the proceedings and what factors might be involved in changes in the children’s adaptation and wellbeing. We also aimed to investigate the reliability of the expert placement and treatment recommendations made to the court. The original assessment reports for the court were independently coded using the comprehensive child adaptation measure (CCAM). At follow-up, mean time of 26 months after their assessment, the researchers re-employed the child adaptation measure in semi-structured interviews with carers in birth, adoptive, foster and kinship placements. The data was independently coded and the results compared with the child’s original score as a measure of change in adaptation post proceedings in their substitute family or birth family. Researchers also collected information about the children’s placement(s) and, any support or treatment received. The study found that children’s wellbeing significantly improved by an average of +6.7 points between initial assessment (M = 68.13; SD = 9.86) and follow-up (M = 74.82; SD = 7.84), t (67) = -5.0, p < .001, d = 0.76). Children whose global adjustment scores were clinically concerning at the time of assessment hardly improved their scores (.44), compared to children whose global adjustment scores were within the normal range at the time of assessment. Interestingly, the majority (88%) of expert placement recommendations had been accepted and implemented. However less than 50% of the children and only 30% of parents received the support and treatment recommended in the experts reports in the proceedings. The implications for both policy and practice in working with children and their families during and after care proceedings are explored.