Comparing long-term placements for young children in care
The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study – Northern Ireland
Publication date: 2013
ISBN: 978 1 907585 777
Social care and legal professionals are frequently faced with the challenge of having to decide on the most appropriate long-term placement for a child in care – one that will enhance the young person’s health and well-being and enable them to achieve their full potential in the longer term. However, there is a dearth of longitudinal research that explores how children thrive across placement options, making it difficult for professionals to engage in evidence-based practice and decision making.
The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study is one of a small number of studies worldwide that is taking a long-term comparative approach and providing vital information for practitioners. Since 2000 the study has been tracking the placement profiles of a population of children who were under the age of five and in care in Northern Ireland on a particular census day. Funded by the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland, it has been gathering comparative data on how the children and their parents/carers are coping across the different type of placements provided.
Comparing long-term placements for young children in care reports on the most recent phase of the study. This involved interviews with a sub-group of children (aged nine to 14) and their parents/carers in adoption, foster care, kinship care, on residence order and living with birth parents. Similarities and differences between placement types were explored including: children’s attachments, self-concept, education, health and behaviour; parents’/carers’ stress; social support; family communication; and contact with birth families.
This contemporary study is an important contribution to evidence-based practice and provides a research base for decision making throughout the UK. It raises important points about identifying and addressing the particular needs of sub-groups within the care population, reviewing placement progress and putting in place additional support where appropriate and necessary.
Comparing long-term placements for young children in care will be of particular interest to all those social work and legal professionals who are involved in making important placement decisions for young people in care.
Dominic McSherry is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Child Care Research, Queen’s University Belfast. He has been Principal Investigator on the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study since 2003.
Montserrat Fargas Malet is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Child Care Research. She has worked on the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study since March 2007.
Kerrylee Weatherall is a Principal Social Work Practitioner and Manager in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. She worked at the Institute of Child Care Research from 2008–11 as a Research Fellow on the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study.
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