Callaghan, J., Young, B., Richards, M. and Vostanis, P.
Looked after children have extensive mental health needs that are not often met by current mental health service provision. Jane Callaghan, Bridget Young, Maxine Richards and Panos Vostanis describe the use of focus groups with various stakeholders – social services staff, foster carers and residential social workers – to inform the development of a specialist mental health team for looked after children. Thirteen focus groups were conducted, comprising 58 participants in total, and all sessions were audio-taped and transcribed. Data were analysed using the constant comparative method and this revealed several emergent themes: difficulties accessing mental health services, the importance of developing a working partnership between child and adolescent mental health services, social services and foster carers, the need for consultation, and the importance of developing a service that is appropriate to the specific needs of looked after children. The newly developed model of mental health provision for looked after children is described, and the ways in which its form was influenced by the issues identified in focus groups are highlighted.