Taking vulnerable children into care earlier could save millions of pounds for taxpayers, as well as being much better for the child, a new study has found.
The Demos report said taxpayers could save nearly £33,000 more per child per year if they receive earlier and more effective care.
Early intervention usually results in more stable "care journeys", fewer costly placements and a reduced risk of needing specialist treatment or mental health support, the researchers said.
The report, funded by children's charity Barnardo's, compared two hypothetical journeys and found that the annual children's services costs could be nearly twice that for a child who had received poor support. There are currently 61,000 children in care in the UK.
Researchers said: "A shift of resources and investment to the beginning of a child's care journey could have real long-term benefits for that child and minimise the costs associated with unstable and unhappy care experiences later on."
The report also said the state should be recognised as being capable of acting as a "parallel parent" and the care system should be seen as a "positive form of family support".
One of the report authors, Celia Hannon, said: "Government must urgently address the factors that affect a child's experience of being in care.
"That means focusing more on working with families at an earlier stage and minimising the instability resulting from indecision and lengthy processes."
Martin Narey, Barnardo's chief executive, told the BBC: "Many believe that care is always second best to the care provided by parents. Contrary to popular belief, and for all its inadequacies, care does make things better and can and does create stable, nurturing environments for children.
"We must urgently adopt a more pro-active and positive use of care, one where care is used earlier and more effectively so it becomes a means of real cost avoidance."
Source: AOL News