Building secure futures for children in Scotland

This study is exploring experiences and outcomes for children accommodated before age 5 in Scotland who go on to be placed permanently away from their birth parents.

The research project is a collaboration between the Universities of Stirling and York.

UPDATE: We have recently published a project update, which can be found under the 'project update' tab below.

University of York 

Research Team

Dr Helen Whincup, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Stirling: Helen is a qualified social worker, and teaches on the post-qualifying child welfare and protection courses. She has a particular interest in children’s experience of social workers and social work services, and what children and practitioners ‘do’ when they are together. Helen previously sat on an adoption panel, and brings personal and professional experiences of adoption.

Professor Nina Biehal, Co-Principal Investigator, University of York: Nina is also a qualified social worker. She has been doing research on social work with children and families for many years, with a particular focus on children who are looked after, adopted or on the edge of care.

Dr Linda Cusworth, Co-Investigator: Linda is a research fellow in the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York, and has experience in quantitative secondary data analysis, data linkage and manipulation, and in designing and administering online surveys.  Linda's main research interests focus on child well-being, in particular improving outcomes for looked after children.

Dr Maggie Grant, Research Fellow: Maggie is a research fellow in the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at Stirling, on secondment from the Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland. She has worked in adoption and fostering research for 10 years and has a particular interest in how early childhood experiences influence later stages of life.

Dr Marina Shapira, Co-Investigator: Marina is a Lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the University of Stirling. Marina is also a sociologist with an interest in social stratification, ethnicity and social policies. Most of her work involves analysing large social survey data as well as administrative and linked datasets.

Ms Jade Hooper, Research Assistant: Jade is a member of The Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection and the Social Surveys and Social Statistics research group at the University of Stirling. Jade has experience and training in quantitative research and methodologies and the handling of sensitive administrative data. She has worked with Professor Daniel and Dr Shapira as a Research Assistant on a large Nuffield Foundation funded project using data from the Looked after Children and Child Protection returns.

Dr Andressa Gadda, Consultant: Andressa is a research fellow in the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at Stirling, with an educational background in Sociology and Social Work. Her research focuses on looked after children and their families; children’s rights; welfare practices and policy; the intersection between care and protection; post-theories and research co-production. 

Dr Sarah Wilson, Consultant: Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Stirling and an Associate Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR). Her research has focused on parental substance misuse and belonging among looked after children and has employed participatory visual and audial methods. Sarah is also a qualified solicitor with experience of childcare law.

Previous team members:

Moved June, 2017: Professor Brigid Daniel, Co-Principal Investigator: Brigid is a qualified social worker and has a particular interest in child welfare and protection and in children’s resilience. Her research focus has been on generating evidence to support practitioners in their work with neglected children and to offer ideas on how to promote the resilience of children who are facing adversity.

Retired, February 2017: Ms Cheryl Burgess, Research Fellow: Cheryl worked as a social worker in a local authority adoption and fostering team in Scotland for seven years. Since 2003 Cheryl has been a research fellow on over 30 research and evaluation studies including those with a focus on kinship care, young people who run away, child neglect and family support.

Contributed to early stages: Dr Alasdair Rutherford, Co-Investigator, Lecturer in Quantitative methods: Alisdair is an an economist, but currently lectures in social statistics in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling.  His research focuses on health & social care and the voluntary sector.  Most of his work involves analysing large social survey data, but has also increasingly made use of administrative and linked datasets.

Project Updates

This research project runs from October 2014 to November 2017. It focuses on children in Scotland who are first accommodated away from home by relatives, carers or adopters before the age of five. We are carrying out a number of studies within the project using a range of methods including analysis of local and national statistics and in-depth interviews with carers, adopters, social workers and children. The aim is to explore the experiences and outcomes for these children and identify what helps to ensure stability and security. We will use the findings to shape recommendations for policy and practice and make sure that the messages get to the people who need to hear them. Project updates can be found below. 

Project Update - March 2017

We are continuing to make good progress with the research and are currently undertaking our survey of adoptive families, prospective adopters, kinship and foster carers. Our local contact people and information officers in the 19 local authority areas taking part in the study have been very helpful in ensuring that the survey reaches the families in our sample. We are grateful to all of them for this help and for offering to forward on questionnaires to many of the families on our behalf. We are hopeful that the response rate will be as good as the social worker survey earlier this year (65%).

We are in the process of recruiting adoptive, kinship and foster families for the qualitative study and have so far met with eight sets of adoptive parents and kinship or permanent foster carers and their children across Scotland. The children have enjoyed the play session interviews with Helen and her bags of bright and imaginative toys. She uses these to explore with children, all aged between three and eight, the ways in which they make sense of living with a new family and how they have been helped to feel that they belong. The adults tell us that they value the opportunity to talk about their experiences of the adoption, or other types of permanence, process. We are very appreciative of the time they are giving to tell us their stories. The interviews are providing us with valuable insights into their experiences which we will be reflecting (anonymously) in our final report.

We are in the process of analysing the quantitative data we have collected on the pathways of children looked after away from home and are making good progress on reviewing relevant literature.
Maggie Grant has recently taken over from Cheryl Burgess as the main research fellow on the study and her contact details are as follows: Tel 01786 466433

Previous Updates:

Project update - June 2016

Project update - April 2016




Help and advice

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