Children are ‘looked after’ in the UK in several ways. They may be accommodated under s. 20 Children Act 1989, a voluntary arrangement, or they may be looked after under a s. 31 Care Order which is made by application to the court. Other orders, under s. 8 Children Act 1989, may determine with whom a child or young person lives. Whichever applies, children will be looked after in foster care, residential care, in detention or secure accommodation, or in respite care. Once children and young people reach the age of 16 in the UK they can legally leave home and this also applies to young people who are looked after. Once young people have left care they remain ‘in need’. Research has consistently identified that young people who leave care are disadvantaged on several measures. Children who come into the care system are not living with their families because illness, poverty or overwhelming problems mean that parents can no longer look after their child.
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