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Briefing Paper: Ethnicity of children in care and supervision proceedings in England

In this analysis – for the first time – the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory presents a high-level overview of differences in the demographic characteristics of children from different ethnic groups in care proceedings the legal outcomes for those children, how long it takes to get to a final order, where these children are living, and whether parents come back to court after the final order is made.

Our aim with this paper is to increase awareness of the inequalities and disparities that exist across ethnic groups in the family justice system and how we can monitor and measure this using data.

It also provides the basis for future work as it points to many questions that remain unanswered and under-investigated and we recommend areas for further enquiry.

The findings are drawn from an analysis of the ethnicity of children in care and supervision proceedings in England. The analysis uses population-level data from Cafcass England. Until recently this has not been possible as information on ethnicity was not routinely collected in Cafcass data prior to 2017.

Highlights from the briefing:

  • Black and Asian children are, on average, older upon entering care proceedings for the first time.
  • The analysis shows both Black and Asian children are less likely to be on an adoption/placement order than both White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children. While this is not a novel finding, our analysis shows that it cannot be explained descriptively by ethnic differences in age, location, nor being part of a sibling group in proceedings.
  • SGO’s are most prevalent among White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children.  Black children are less likely to have a legal order for an SGO than White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children. Asian children are even less likely to have an order for an SGO.
  • Black and Asian children, on average, receive legal orders that we class as “less interventionist” than their White counterparts. Adoption is most intrusive form of state intervention in family life and therefore this is defined as the most interventionist on a sliding scale down from secure accommodation/ deprivation of liberty orders, care orders, special guardianship orders (SGOs), child arrangements orders (CAOs), supervision orders, other orders, to no order being the least interventionist. However, there is an important exception to this. A higher proportion of Black and Asian children have a secure accommodation or deprivation of liberty order than White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children.
  • Black and Asian children are more likely to receive no order from court than White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children.
  • Cases involving Black and other racially minoritised children took longer to conclude than cases involving White ethnicity children.
  • Higher proportion of White and Mixed or multiple ethnicity children had at least one recurrent parent than children in all other ethnic categories.

Read the full briefing HERE