16 May 2023

New information Published on Infants Born into Care in Scotland

The Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) has today (16 May) published a new research report led by the University of Edinburgh, ‘Infants Born into Care in Scotland’.

The updated report, which follows SCADR’s inaugural report published in 2020, includes all children in care at any time between 2008 and 2021, extending the data analysis to include the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focuses on children who became 'looked after' as infants (under one year) and as babies (in their first week of life).

The research reveals that around one in every 100 children born in Scotland goes into care before their first birthday. In Scotland, many infants, and especially many newborn babies, first enter care with the voluntary agreement of their parents (Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995).

The findings also show large differences in the proportion of infants entering care in different local authority areas. The researchers suggest that some, but not all, of these differences can be explained by varying levels of poverty in local authority areas.

Just under 50% of children who went into care before they were one week old were adopted by age seven. This drops to 23% for children who went into care between the age of one week and their first birthday. Of all children who went into care before their first birthday, 14% were still in some form of care by their 15th birthday.

The report recommends that these updated findings raise further questions for policy and practice. This includes understanding better the use of ‘voluntary’ care arrangements, exploring reasons for decline in rates of adoption of children starting care at less than one week old, and local authority variation in the rates of infants starting care.

The researchers conclude that: “Greater investment in prevention and longer-term support could enable more parents to continue to care for their child throughout childhood. This seems especially vital given the high proportion of care-experienced parents who often have more limited support networks. The weaknesses in provision outlined by research suggests the need for serious investment in services that will truly address the needs of infants and their parents with a wide range of formal and informal material and practical support.”

Download the Infants Born into Care in Scotland report

For users of the dataset, the ‘Data Explained’ document provides feedback on the data quality and learnings from using the Scottish Government’s 'Looked After' Children Longitudinal Dataset for research.

Read the ‘Data Explained’ document

Find out more about CELCIS’s research on voluntary care arrangements: https://celcis.org/vca