What makes a looked after child happy and unhappy?

NELSON, Pete, HOMER, Catherine and MARTIN, Richard William (2020). What makes a looked after child happy and unhappy? Adoption and Fostering, 44 (1), 20-36.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.1177/0308575919900665


What is good for a looked after child is usually decided by adults with the child’s voice often peripheral. One way to make the child central to decision-making is to ask them what makes them happy or unhappy. In doing this, the definition of happiness has to be neither a description of what has gone well in life nor an immediate state of mind, but should encompass the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia. This is often translated as happiness but also incorporates notions of well-being and flourishing. The study reported here was undertaken as part of a children’s health needs assessment in an English local authority. It sought to understand why looked after children experience such high levels of poor mental health and make growing demands on therapeutic services. The proportion of young people displaying above average scores on validated measures, such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), is growing each year. The aim was to find out what looked after children say makes them happy and unhappy and what they see as likely to increase their well-being, and to compare their suggestions with those of the professionals and carers involved in their lives. Focus groups with children and professionals then discussed the same question, with the professionals also examining their understanding of SDQ results and their relevance to practice. The study found significant differences between the views of the children and professionals in both the range and emphasis of what is seen as important. Moreover, these adult assumptions were rarely tested by meaningful discussions with young people when key decisions were made; indeed, these seemed to be made about rather than with the children. In addition, the SDQ was not widely used by professionals to assess children’s emotional health and well-being needs. The study concluded that discussions about happiness can usefully support holistic understandings of looked after children’s experiences and aid planning and practice development.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1607 Social Work; 1701 Psychology
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1177/0308575919900665
Page Range: 20-36
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2020 16:33
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 17:31
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/26143

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