The Sample: Characteristics
and Reasons for Placement
One aim of this project was to describe a large sample of foster children and foster placements. This was seen as of interest in itself. There is no recent large-scale study of children in foster care at a particular point in time. It is also an essential preliminary to any study of the impact of support on outcomes. It is only after describing these characteristics and their association with outcome that we can try to tease out the additional impact of support.
This chapter begins the task of description. It provides information on the age, sex, ethnicity and legal status of the children in the sample, their previous careers in the care system, and the reasons for their current placement. This information helps to identify the broad kinds of fostering experienced by the sample–for example, whether their placements were short- or long-term. It also gives information relevant to some of the key concerns about the system– for example, about the degree of choice available when placements are made.
Table 2.1 gives the age distribution of children in the sample. As can be seen, half are aged under 11, and half are 11 or over. These figures are in keeping with what is known from official statistics at the time of our study, where 45 per cent of foster children were aged under 10 (Department of Health 1999). As 5 per cent of our sample are aged 10, the two figures are effectively the same.