Stirling research to transform record keeping in children’s homes

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Researchers at the University of Stirling are set to transform record keeping in children’s homes after securing funding for a ground-breaking project.

Supported by the Arts and Humanities Council and German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG), the research aims to improve the information, documents and objects kept for children living in residential care in order to provide them with a rich history of their childhoods. It hopes to move ‘record keeping’ beyond the notion of individual care files to a wider-capturing of what matters to children in everyday life.

Led by Dr Ruth Emond, Associate Professor of Social Work, the Stirling team will work in partnership with Osnabrück University in Germany, young people and adults with experience of the care system in Scotland and Germany, as well as Aberlour Children’s Charity, Birthlink, The National Records of Scotland and The Residential Child Care Project at Cornell University. Together they will examine what types of information, objects and relationships are central to supporting those in care to hold on to memories and an understanding of their everyday lives in residential care.

The first part of the research will explore how the everyday life of children living in residential care was captured in historical records from 1920-1980. Learning gained from this will then be used to design, alongside young people and care experienced adults, an example of a virtual ‘living archive’ for residential care homes. The project will produce guidance and training on how care settings can improve their record keeping and future access to people’s personal everyday history.

Dr Emond said: “For adults who have spent their childhood and youth in state care, the opportunities to revisit, both physically and emotionally, the places, events and relationships of childhood, are often restricted and limited to formal, individual, case recordings. This compares markedly to those who have not been in state care who are more likely to have a rich personal archive of photographs and memorabilia and access to people, places and objects of childhood.

“By improving record keeping, and in turn making it easier to access archives, residential care settings can support former residents to understand their rich personal history and have a direct, positive impact on their wellbeing and sense of self into adulthood.”

The project ‘Back to the Future: Archiving Children’s Residential Care Homes (ARCH) in Scotland and Germany’ will run from June 2021 until March 2024.

Background information

More information about the project can be found on the website: or by following the Twitter account: @ARCH_stirling

Anyone with care experience, who is interested in finding out more about accessing their records, or who wishes to access their records, can contact Aberlour Children’s Charity by emailing: