Researchers: Jim Wade, Nicola Farrelly, Nina Biehal, Ian Sinclair
Funder: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), Safeguarding Children Research Initiative
Duration: June 2006 to February 2010
The study focussed on children first placed for reasons of abuse or neglect. It compared outcomes for those who remained looked after, with those who returned to their families, over an average period of three years. We wanted to understand how decisions for them to remain looked after or return home were reached; the factors that are taken into account when reaching these judgements and the consequences of these decisions for children some time later with respect to their safety, stability and in relation to a range of psychosocial outcomes. This project was part of a wider Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department of Health research initiative on safeguarding children, together with the project, Neglected adolescents: a review of the research and the preparation of guidance for multi-disciplinary teams and a guide for young people.
The study built on a previous study of patterns of placement stability and change and followed up the same children who participated in that study (a total of 3,872 children). The study involved a number of phases:
- A follow-up census study of all children drawing on data contained in local authority information systems identified patterns of stay, return home and re-entry to care for a large sample of children who had experienced abuse or neglect and compare thesed pathways to those of children looked after for other reasons [n=3,872].
- A survey of 154 of these children who were first placed for reasons of abuse or neglect was conducted, involving 1) an analysis of social work case files to understand how decisions to stay or return were reached and how these decisions were supported, 2) follow-up questionnaires to each child’s current or most recent social worker and to their current school teacher to assess outcomes up to three years later.
- Finally, interviews were conducted with 30 children and birth parents to provide a deep understanding of the experiences of children and families and of their perceptions of agency support.
Praise for the research
"This is high-quality stuff, written in an engaging and informative manner. The accumulated wealth of experience of the research team in relation to the whole issue of looked after children is clearly evident in the way in which difficult issues are articulated and assumptions regarding LAC challenged."
Steve J. Hothersall, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
Extract from a book review of Caring for Abused and Neglected Children in the British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 42, no. 3, Pp. 583-585
The Guardian, Monday 13 September 2010, Abused children 'better off in care'. David Brindle
The Guardian, Thursday 16 September 2010, Don't the Conservatives think Britain is broken now?. Deborah Orr
Community Care, Neglected children happier in care than in stable reunion
Presentations and publications
Home or away? Comparing outcomes for reunified and looked after children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Keynote.
Wade, J., Home or Away: Making Difficult Decisions in the Child Protection System Conference, University of Warwick, Coventry, 22 February 2012. Maltreated children: weighing the risks of reunification and long-term care. Invited.
Wade, J., Kingston University Evening Seminar, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, 15 March 2012. Maltreated children: weighing the risks of reunification or long-term care. Invited.
Wade, J., Social Work Forum, Isle of Man, 21 May 2012. Returning maltreated children home: making the right decisions for reunification or long-term care
Wade, J., 'All Our Children': Positive Experiences, Successful Outcomes for Looked After and Other Vulnerable Children,12th European Scientific Association on Residential Foster Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF) Conference, Glasgow, 5-7 September 2012. When is it safe for maltreated children to go home? Making the right decisions for reunification or long-term care. Invited.
Wade, J., Making Research Count Seminar, University of York, York, 1 February 2012. PDF of presentation 2011
Permanency planning: reunification or long-term care? Research, policy and practice in England. Keynote.
Biehal, N., The Family's Right to Their Child Conference, Warsaw, Poland, 28 April 2011. Promoting successful outcomes of return home for children looked after for abuse or neglect. Invited.
Wade, J., Bradford Children's Social Care Services Practice Forum, Bradford, 5 December 2011. Caring for Abused and Neglected Children: Making the right decisions for reunification or long-term care, 2011
Wade, J., Biehal, N., Farrelly, N. and Sinclair, I., Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Social work interventions with maltreated children: planning, family support and reunification outcomes. Invited.
Wade, J., Ward, H. and Farmer, E., Safeguarding Children Across Services Report Launch, Department for Education, London, 21 November 2011. 2010
Maltreated children in the looked after system: a comparison of outcomes for those who go home and those who do not, 2010
Wade, J., Biehal, N., Farrelly, N. and Sinclair, I., Research Brief, DFE-RBX-10-06, Department for Education. 2009
Outcomes for children looked after for reasons of abuse or neglect: interim findings
Biehal, N. and Wade, J., Safeguarding Research Initiative Annual Seminar, Commonwealth Club, London, 11-12 May 2009.