Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

In this first part of a two part blog I will discuss the needs of deaf children and young people who become ‘looked after’ or go into local authority care.

When alternative care is necessary

In very extreme circumstances when it is felt that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm due to the care given by their parents or carers a child may require the local authority to place them in alternative care. This could be with extended family or relatives; foster carers or in children’s homes.

In the UK there are 92,000 children in care and the majority of these children are in foster placements.

Such arrangements can be temporary where it’s felt that parents/carers will be able to meet their children’s needs, or it could be longer term. For very young children where it is felt that they clearly cannot return home the adoption route must be considered.

 The experience for the child

Leaving home, where a child may have experienced long term abuse or neglect will still be a traumatic experience for any child. They will have to break routines and disrupt attachments to parents or carers, family members and friends. In some instances a child may have to move away from a school they attended and the community they live in.

A child will inevitably try to give meaning to such events and for a deaf child who may have limited language and or access to communication this will likely increase the stress they experience. In such situations the need for a social worker who can communicate effectively with the child and ensure their language needs and potentially deaf cultural needs are fully considered in the placements sought is crucial. If not, further damage is likely to the child’s emotional health and well-being.

The challenge of meeting deaf children’s needs in care

There are a number of factors which make it difficult to recognise and plan for the needs of deaf children when they come into care. These include;

  •  the statistical data requirements on local authorities in most UK countries does not require the types of disability to be specified and therefore total numbers of deaf children in care are unknown
  • there are very few specialist social work teams and social work posts for deaf children. An NDCS soon to be published survey of social care provision in English local authorities confirms this
  • many local authorities do not recognise the possible social care needs of deaf children and that they are ‘children in need’ within UK law.
  • deafness is a low incidence disability and being deaf does not necessarily mean every child must require social care support to meet their needs. This will be dependent on the resources within the family; other children’s services.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and highlight their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities planning services.

In the next blog I will explain about our NDCS project to raise awareness of deaf children in care.

For more information on fostering go to:

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor


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