The definition of a ‘looked after child’ is an individual, up to the age of 18 who has been placed in the care of the local authority, whether this is placed with foster carers, either short or long term or a residential unit. Also, children who are subject to either a Full Care Order, or an Interim Care Order granted by the courts. It is also an appropriate term for a child who is still in the care of his or her own family, but is still subject to one of the above court orders. Statistical data is collected annually by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, from Children’s Services across the country. On 31st March 2009, there were 60,900 looked after children in the UK.
In order to examine the current social policies in place with regard to looked after children, and how those policies have developed, it is relevant to briefly comment on the situation and condition historically, for children who found themselves in the need of substitute care. In the post war years, new legislation was passed in the Children Act 1948 “with the aim of strengthening the legal and procedural framework surrounding the needs of children placed in substitute care” (Cocker, 2008, p4). This was deemed necessary following the instances of neglect and abuse suffered by children evacuated during World War Two, and the case of Dennis O’Neil, a 12 year old boy, whose abuse and subsequent death at the hands of his foster carers in January 1945 caused a public outcry. In the immediate aftermath of this event, a government inquiry was held