Research type 
Year of report 

Summary of findings

  • The overwhelming majority of looked-after children come from socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods and from families with multiple problems. The majority find being 'in care' a very negative experience and enjoy little stability. They often find themselves moving from one placement to another and frequently changing schools, home and support workers.
  • A minority of children in care appear to adopt an anti-drugs stance, but being in care does seem to increase the propensity for drug-taking to get out of control
  • There is little evidence that the majority of the looked-after children in this sample received any 'official' education about drugs. Drugs education is not an integral part of the looked-after service for children in most cases and the support services provided are therefore patchy.
  • There was widespread awareness of the FRANK campaign both amongst young people and workers. Although the campaign was felt to be of limited relevance for this particular group the following suggestions were made to increase its effectiveness: - Increased publicity of the helpline and website as confidential services. It is likely that, even though many looked-after children have a good relationship with support workers and feel able to discuss drugs issues with them, some young people will nevertheless access these services on the grounds that it is sometimes good to talk to a stranger. - More provision of engaging interactive resources for use by young people (e.g. FRANK fruit machine) - Interactive resources for use by support workers/carers with young people on the subject of understanding their use of drugs and its impact on their lives - Introduce resources for use by young people which relate to the looked-after experience and how to cope with it. - Print resources are appropriate if they are funky, engaging and not too text-heavy, but other information delivery channels should also be considered including: (1)Talks from ex-problematic users, (2) DVD/videos/computer games relating to drugs, (3) Drugs storylines in TV soaps, (4) Talk about drugs on music programmes/TV channels, (5) Case studies on video to form the basis of discussions between looked-after young people and their support workers.

Research objectives


The broad objectives of the research were to explore the extent to which front line workers involved with looked-after children and young people feel that FRANK:

  • Is currently providing comprehensive and appropriate support for their activities with these young people
  • Needs to provide some different/additional support in order to optimise the service they are offering and also to explore with the young people themselves: - What type of drugs intervention they need (and in what circumstances) - In what format they prefer to receive drugs information and what visual/graphic styles of publication appeal to them - Views of a current range of drugs resources from FRANK, HIT and Lifeline in terms of their impact, interest and potential usefulness.



FRANK, launched in late May 2003, is the Government's campaign, which aims to provide drugs information, and support services for young people aged 11-21 and their parents and carers. After the launch of FRANK, feedback from some local organisers and stakeholders working with certain groups of Vulnerable Young People (VYP) suggested that there may be a need for some specialist support materials and services to meet the unique requirements of young people in specific 'at risk' categories. The Home Office and the Department of Health therefore decided to commission further research to look in more depth at the type of support required by front line workers and their clients in five specific sectors:

  • Young offenders
  • Young people sexually exploited by prostitution
  • Young homeless
  • Looked-after children
  • Children of substance misusers

This report relates specifically to looked-after children and young people.

Research participants


Looked after children status:

  • children in foster care
  • children in children’s homes
  • care leavers

Support workers:

  • Workers in children's home
  • Social services specialists (including Leaving Care team members)
  • Foster care organisations
  • Looked-after charities
  • Foster carers

Audience Summary





Not specified



The sample was segmented by the following age groups:

  • 11-13 years
  • 14-16 years
  • 17-18 years

Social Class


Not specified


Data collection methodology

Depth interviews

Sample size


50 children and 50 support workers

Detailed region


Fieldwork was conducted in London, Leeds, Manchester, Portsmouth, Northampton, Wakefield, Swinton, Rotherham, Ipswich, Norwich and Cheltenham

Fieldwork dates


19th July to 10th September 2004

Agree to publish





Low/moderate A number of verbatim quotes referring to drug habits of looked after children which could be taken out of context.

Research agency

Front Line