One in five of Dorset's children in care went missing in one year

One in five of Dorset's children in care went missing in one year

Published by George Sharpe at 12:01am 8th December 2019. (Updated at 7:20am 9th December 2019)

Almost one in five of Dorset children in care have been reported missing over a 12 month period.

The county’s Corporate Parenting Board is being told there has been a ‘significant increase’ in the figures between the first three months of the financial year and the second quarter – up from 176 to 251.

A report acknowledged that the 17 per cent of ‘in care’ children who go missing can be at risk although in the vast majority of cases that is not the case:

“Young people who go missing or run away from their homes or care are at increased risk of potential harm. Research suggests that approximately 25% are at risk of serious harm; the most significant risk being criminal child exploitation,”  said a report to Monday’s (9th) meeting.

In the majority of cases the period of being absent was short-lived, often less than a few hours. Most of the cases were investigated with a return home interview offered which looks into the underlying reasons for the absence and whether any action needs to be taken to prevent a repeat.

A report to the meeting by outgoing executive director of children’s services, Sarah Parker, says that 86 children came into care for the first time in the last six months while 57 left care, lower than the figure for the previous six months, which has partially inflated the total of children in the care of the council to 469.

The proportion of ‘in care’ children in foster placements has remained at 68 per cent. Of those in long term places, 70 per cent have been in the same home for more than two years.

child on swing

The majority of children in care, 80 per cent, were seen by a social worker in the last six weeks although many of them are living outside of the county, adding to the cost and difficulty of making regular contact.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter