Children in care and food issues

It is well known that children in care are among the most disadvantaged groups with higher mental and physiological health needs than their peers outside of the care system. They often display abnormal food related behaviours, for example, hoarding food or stealing food and they can come into care with a poor nutritional status. But do children in care and the carers receive enough support around those challenges?

Although food is at the very heart of all aspects of care, the importance and key role of nutrition and positive food practices in care are currently underestimated and not effectively highlighted in social care policies. Yet, carers receive no or limited support around nutrition and food behaviour issues often encountered in care settings.

Whereas, the decisions about how food is provided and consumed has a fundamental impact on the relationships and dynamics within a care setting. Food practices have a massive potential for creating an environment where children can begin to feel part of a family unit. In addition, healthy eating habits throughout the life course will reduce the risk of health problems in later life. It is important that the food and eating patterns to which children and young people in care are exposed to promote positive relationships with food and good nutrition.

Food as a safeguarding issue

Food in Care programme, led by Food Active, has published a position statement on ‘Food as a safeguarding issue’ to frame the issue, both at a national and north west England perspective. The aim was to provide a brief review of the evidence, initiatives or regulations currently in place to tackle the issue and call to action on the matter.

Briefly, the position statement highlights:

  • Supporting children to develop healthy eating behaviours and relationships with food is a far wider issue than simply understanding and preparing healthy food for children

  • There is inadequate statutory resource and support to upskill carers in the importance of food in care

  • There is an urgent need to adapt strategy and practice to ensure that food and nutrition including the broader psychological aspects of food is included in all aspects of caring for Children in Care.

  • It is essential that children’s services and policy makers take a whole systems approach to create a healthier environment for Children in Care.

Tackling food issues in children’s care sector

A step-based approach is essential in children’s social care sector to raise the profile of food and nutrition as safeguarding issues. Therefore, Food Active has partnered with several national organisations, including: Foster Talk, BECOME charity, Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, National Fostering Agency and with a number of local authorities (Tameside MB Council, Knowsley MB Council) to develop Food in Care Charter as a first important step towards better health outcomes for children and young people in care.

Call to action – help us to make the positive change!

We are currently running a survey with foster carers, connected carers, adopters, residential staff, managers, looked after children's nurses, independent reviewing officers and other professionals to share their views about the support that is currently available around nutrition and food behaviour issues often encountered in care settings. This survey will look in detail what support is currently available, what are the gaps, what works and how things could be changed or improved.

The results of the survey, along with other information such as academic journals will inform the development of the Food in Care charter.

Therefore, we would like to ask you to take part in this short online survey. Your views will be valuable and kept confidential.

 

If you would like to learn more about the Food in Care programme, training options or the Food in Care Charter, contact Magdalena Przybylka (0151 237 2686/magda.przybylka@foodactive.org.uk).