British and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of the local authority who go missing

Bassey, Amanda (2021) British and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of the local authority who go missing. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis plans to add to the limited research into the increasing problem of children under the care of the local authority in United Kingdom running away and/or being reported missing. Specifically, to understand the factors that increase the likelihood of this sample group going missing. Whether this group of children, which can also include Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) are heterogeneous or homogeneous in their characteristics, and the differences if found to be heterogeneous. To explore validated risk assessments in use, and to see whether current governmental statutes are being followed with regards to missing and/or runaway children under the care of the local authority.

A systematic review was conducted with the aim of ascertaining the characteristics present in local authority children who go missing. This was to better inform services where interventions should be focused. 14 studies were included in this review and it was found that the characteristics that appeared to predict runaway behaviour in Looked After Children (LAC) included: older age, being female, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, placement instability and/or type and mental illness amongst others. A critique of the Adolescent Concerns Evaluation (ACE) assessment is then presented. The reason for this critique is that before the development of new risk assessments to predict runaway behaviours in LAC can take place, older validated assessments need to be evaluated. The Adolescent Concerns Evaluation proved a versatile and easy to use tool, due to the different factors which capture many aspects of a child’s life (peers, family, school etc). Unfortunately, whilst the ACE had reliability and validity testing, research did not finish due to economic viability which has left questions about normative data and concurrent validity, these questions impacted the usability of the tool in practice.

This is followed by three studies, beginning with a pilot study looking at whether there was a difference between British LAC and UASC who were reported missing (N=107). The pilot study investigated police responses to runaway behaviour, characteristic differences, and predicting who was most at risk of running away. The pilot study found there were significant differences between British LAC and UASC who were reported missing. If a screening tool was developed to ascertain whether a young person was at risk of running away, there would need to be a one for each sample.

The primary aim in the research study was to identify the factors associated with increased runaway behaviour within a sample of 210 LAC runaways in England between 2017 and 2018. Correlational relationships were found between older children, being Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET), having more total placements, experiencing mental illness, alcohol difficulties, being at risk of trafficking and increased runaway incidences. The study also had a small sample (n= 13) of UASC who were qualitatively analysed.

The secondary aims in the research study aimed to identify whether return interviews were being conducted following statutory regulations and procedures for safeguarding. In addition, a study objective was to identify if there were any factors contributing to the successful completion of a return to care interview following a runaway episode, in the same sample of 210 runaway Looked After Children. This included the length of time the runaway was missing and the reason the runaway went missing. The study found that return interviews only took place in 43.2% of the total 1016 runaway episodes related to the 210 LAC. Positively, in the cases where return interviews were taking place, these were within 72 hours in 78.1% of total runaway incidents. Furthermore, in the cases where the young person was taken into care due to challenging behaviour or risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), they were more likely to receive a return interview. Similar to the pilot study, there was not enough data on the UASC sample (n=13) to quantitatively analyse the results. However, in summary, return interviews were conducted on only six occasions, and four of those occasions were within 72 hours.

Overall, this thesis adds further evidence that children under the care of the local authority are a heterogenous group. Specifically, the needs of runaway and/or missing UASC do not have the same needs as local children under the care of the local authority. Further research is required into the risk factors for identifying children at risk of running away and/or being reported as missing, as some risks may be context dependant. Validated risk assessments for runaway children are limited and poor, suggesting that more reliable and valid tools need to be developed. Serious consideration needs to be given towards replacing or improving current governmental guidelines to reflect the changes to the increasing rates of children going missing. Furthermore, more scrutiny needs to be given towards police and public services keeping records and protecting vulnerable children who are at risk of running away.

In conclusion from a Forensic Psychology perspective. Children in the care of local authority care going missing is a problem not only because many come from adverse backgrounds of trauma in which they are either the victim or the perpetrator of crime. The added element of going missing means that young people in care are more likely to be forced into gangs, prostitution and/or substance misuse in order to survive due to the lack of support many of their typical peers have. This further perpetuates the cycle of being a victim or heading into the forensic pathway where they come into forensic services.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Browne, Kevin
Keywords: Children in care, Unaccompanied asylum seeking children, Runaway, Looked after Children, Migrant, Asylum seekers, Missing children, Running away
Subjects: H Social sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 64485
Depositing User: Bassey, Amanda
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2021 04:40
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 04:40

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