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Children in care fear being socially stigmatised

Date:13 AUG 2009

Almost 50% of children in care worry about other people knowing their background, mainly because they fear being judged, bullied or treated differently, according to the latest report by Children's Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan.

The Care and Prejudice report surveyed the views of 362 children invited to take part randomly from children's homes and foster care across the country. Of these, 276 completed a detailed survey. Almost half are worried most about employers, other children and young people, and possible landlords finding out they are from care. Those concerned about employers finding out, thought it would affect their chances of getting a job.

However, the majority of children did report they were not treated either better or worse than others because they were in care. For most being in care meant being supported and looked after properly by good carers or staff. For a few it also meant being safe.

Many children in care experienced teachers treating them differently - sometimes better, sometimes worse. In one group, a young person said: "There are expectations that you'll be aggressive, violent and rude. A tutor said she thought I would be like that because I was in care." However, in another group, a young person said: "If you get low marks you get to do the test again because they say you're going through a bad time."

Overall, children in care - especially girls, young people in children's homes, those who had spent longest in care and disabled children - believe that the general public have a negative view of children in care. Almost half thought the public saw children in care as bad and uncontrollable, and just under a quarter thought they were seen as troublemakers.

Roger Morgan, Children's Rights Director for England said: "Children in care face a lot of challenges and unfortunately this can also include prejudices they encounter from other children, the general public, teachers and some professionals. Their concerns are understandable because not living with your birth family makes a big difference to your life experience.

"What is needed is more guidance particularly in schools to support children in care if needed, but without treating them differently from other children. What is also needed is a more informed attitude by the general public."

Some things which are simple for other children are complicated for those that are in care. For example permission to stay over night at a friend's house can be complicated if not impossible because of the confusion about whether a friend's parents need to be police checked.

Where children were placed in care also made a big difference to their experience of being in care. Children in foster care were more likely than those in children's homes to say they have been treated better for being in care. Foster care children were also more likely to say they have more love and care, whereas those in children's homes were more likely to say they have been given more help and support.

To read the Care and Prejudice report, click here.