Working with Children in Care: European Perspectives is written against the background of the gross social disadvantage suffered by children in the care of the state in England. The focus is on social pedagogy and an examination of what this distinctive approach, commonly used in continental Europe, has to offer the development of policy and practice towards such children, especially those who are looked after in residential establishments. It draws on the authors' research.
In this introductory chapter, we provide a brief outline of the field of social pedagogy in Europe; an overview of the main theoretical and policy perspectives on which we will draw; a short description of the research on which the book is based; and a summary of the chapters which follow.
We undertook the research, funded by the English Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills, mainly because of concern about children who are 'looked after', and especially concern about those in residential care. The term 'looked after' was introduced by the Children Act, 1989, to refer to children and young people who are 'accommodated by the local authority' for more than 24 hours, either with parental agreement, subject to a Care Order passed by a Court, or at the request of the young person (over the age of 16). In the UK as a whole approximately 76,500 children and young people were looked after in local authority care in the year ending 31 March 2001 (National Statistics 2001), when we were starting our research.
These young people form a diverse group, but they share a multitude of disadvantages associated with life in the care system and are among the most socially excluded groups in our society (e.g., Department of Health 2000; Chase et al. 2002). For example, within education, looked after children are more likely to be excluded from school, to be non-attenders and to leave without qualifications (Jackson 1994; Social Exclusion Unit 1998; Department of Health 2000). They are more likely to be involved in criminal activity; there is a disproportionately high number of teenage conceptions among this group (Barnardo's 1996) and, on leaving care, they are at greater risk of unemployment and homelessness, relative to the general population (Biehal et al. 1995; Baldwin et al. 1997; Social Services Inspectorate 1997; Department of Health 2000). Recognition of these multiple disadvantages has resulted in the prioritization of their health, education and welfare in a number of government reports and initiatives. Of these young people, the majority (41,700) are placed with foster families, compared with 7000 in residential . . .