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A looked after child is someone who has been cared for by the local authority (children’s services) for more than 24 hours. A lot of young people prefer the term “Our Children” to looked after child. Some people also use the phrase children in care.

Our Children can live in different types of homes, for example in a foster home with foster carers, in a children’s (residential) home or in a residential educational setting. Sometimes, children can still live at home.

Each child will have their own Social Worker who should visit the child regularly and who helps makes decisions about the child. All Foster Carers will also have their own Supervising Social Worker.

When a young person in care reaches 18 years of age, they are no longer looked after by the local authority and they are known as care leavers. However, the local authority is still required to offer support to that young person, until they are 25 years old.

Why do some children and young people go into care?

There are different reasons why children and young people go into care. They include:

  • Their parents recognise that they themselves are not well enough or able to look after their child.
  • The child or young person has a disability and they need more specialist care.
  • The child or young person is seeking asylum in the country and they are unaccompanied, with no responsible adult with them.
  • The local authority is worried that the child or young person is at significant risk of harm by abuse or neglect if they do not come into care.

What are the Mental Health Needs of Our Children?

In England, there are approximately 75,400 children and young people in care, and this group of young people have been found to have a higher level of mental health need than other young people.

Being in care can be a very difficult time for children and young people for so many reasons. They may be living away from their families, friends and communities. They may have experienced family problems or come to harm within their family and this will impact on their mood, how they see themselves, how they experience the world and their relationships with others. They may also be struggling in the new home they are living in.

Children and young people may experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that others cannot see
  • Eating Problems
  • High levels of sadness, anger and confusion
  • Worry about things and the future
  • Difficulty getting on with friends, families, carers and teachers
  • Low self-esteem
  • High levels of stress and distress
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What Can CAMHS to do help?

We have a dedicated multi-disciplinary and multi-agency CAMHS Service for Manchester Looked After Children (CAMHS LAC) aged 0-18 years, whether they are living locally or out of area. Children from other geographical areas living in Manchester access support from our core CAMHS teams.

The CAMHS LAC service provides:

  • Mental health assessments and interventions for children and young people.
  • Consultation and training sessions to social workers, carers, children’s homes and others in the child’s network.
  • Signposting and transitions to adult mental health services, if appropriate, for young people when they reach 18.

It can be hard for Our Children to want to get help and support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, as many will worry that they will be blamed for things or given a mental health “label”.  A lot of our work is with carers, helping them think about how they can support the young person to cope with what has happened and provide the right care to help their young person develop.

CAMHS professionals will always complete an assessment to try and find out what has happened to the young person and how it is affecting them so that the right support can be arranged.

We offer a range one-one interventions and therapies, for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) or Psychotherapy, all of which can help with anxiety, depression and trauma amongst other things. However, the young person may need other support first to help them learn ways to cope with or manage strong feelings or other difficulties, or to help them spend time building up trust with the CAMHS professional.  We can also help link young people up with other local community services, if this is what they want.

We also offer some therapies for young people and their parents or carers together, for example Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) or Family Therapy. These therapies can help strengthen the relationship between the child/young person and carer.

Finally, we offer support to parents, carers and the professionals who support the young person, by offering consultation, carer groups and training.