Research Report

Perspectives on kinship care, foster care and adoption: the voices of children, carers and adoptive parents



Grant M, Whincup H & Burgess C (2019) Perspectives on kinship care, foster care and adoption: the voices of children, carers and adoptive parents. University of Stirling. Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland. Stirling.

This report has been completed as one part of the study 'Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland'. The study is the first in Scotland to investigate decision making, permanence, progress, outcomes and belonging for children who became ‘looked after’ at home, or were placed away from their birth parents (with kinship carers, foster carers or prospective adoptive parents) when they were aged five and under. Phase One of the research ran from 2014-18 and was designed to be the first phase in a longitudinal mixed methods study following a large cohort of young children into adolescence and beyond. It is anticipated that Phase Two will commence in 2020. Phase One of the research was fully funded by a legacy and was undertaken by a team from the universities of Stirling, York, and Lancaster, in conjunction with Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland. This phase of the study had five strands: Pathways to permanence for children who become looked after in Scotland (the Pathways strand)- This analysed data from the Children Looked After Statistics (CLAS) provided to the Scottish Government by all 32 local authorities on the total cohort of children who became looked after during the year 1 August 2012 - 31 July 2013 when they were aged five and under (n=1,836). Of the 1,836 children, 481 children were looked after at home and 1,355 children were looked after away from home. This strand of the study investigated children’s pathways into and through the looked after system over four years from 2012-16, including the route and timescales to permanence. Children looked after away from home aged five and under in Scotland: experiences, pathways and outcomes (the Outcomes strand)- Questionnaires were sent to the kinship carers/foster carers/adoptive parents and social workers of a sample of 643 children from 19 participating local authorities who became looked after away from home in 2012-13 and remained (or were again) looked after away from home a year later. Questionnaires were returned by 433 social workers and 166 carers or adoptive parents, providing detailed information on the children’s histories, circumstances, relationships, health and educational progress. Linking two administrative datasets about looked after children: testing feasibility and enhancing understanding (the Linkage strand) - Information about children who are looked after is collected from all 32 local authorities by the Scottish Government (CLAS data). Data is also collected by the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) on all children who have contact with the Children’s Hearings System. For the first time, these two data sets have been linked through the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN). Within the ADRN’s safe haven we were able to safely and successfully link SCRA and CLAS data on 1,000 children. As well as testing the feasibility of linkage this enabled a more complete picture of the experiences of children. Decision making for children (the Decision making strand)- During 2015-17, 160 decision makers were interviewed across Scotland mainly in groups, but some individually. These included social workers and allied professionals, members of Children’s Hearings, Reporters to the Children’s Hearings, independent consultants, members of permanence panels, and a sheriff. This enabled us to identity from a range of perspectives the factors which influence decision making for children Perspectives on kinship care, foster care and adoption: the voices of children, carers and adoptive parents (the Children and carers strand)- Although the children in our cohort are young, we wanted to hear directly about their experiences. Play and talk sessions took place with a sample of 10 children aged between three and eight years, and 20 kinship carers, foster carers, and adoptive parents were interviewed. The focus was what helped children feel secure, and what carers/adoptive parents said they needed to enable them to meet children’s needs. This report details this strand. The findings of the four other strands of this study will be reported separately. Please see the project website for further details.

FundersConfidential Donor
Title of seriesPermanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland
Publication date30/06/2019
Publication date online20/06/2019
Publisher URL…Final-Report.pdf
Place of publicationStirling

People (2)


Dr Maggie Grant
Dr Maggie Grant

Research Fellow, Social Work

Dr Helen Whincup
Dr Helen Whincup

Senior Lecturer, Social Work