Previous methods

 

Event History Analysis: Event History Analysis was used to attempt to understand what factors predict different care pathways for younger children in care. EHA is a term for a range of procedures that allows for examination of the amount of time elapsed before a certain event occurs, and tries to explain why some children are at a higher/lower risk of experiencing an event than others. 

For Event History Analysis, it is important to specify the exact point in time that the transition between states, defined as an event, occurs. This is relatively straight-forward in relation to adoption; there is a definable movement from not being adopted to the making of an Adoption Order; and in relation to  returning home to birth parents; there is a definable move from not living with birth parents to living with birth parents.  However in the case of foster care, the child remains essentially in the same state.  Although there tends to be a transition between short and long-term foster care, it is often very difficult to specify when this occurs.  Therefore, Event History Analyses were conducted solely in relation to adoption and return to birth parents. 

 

Four sources of data informed the research:

1. SOSCARE data

Data was provided for the full population on 31st March 2000 and again on 31st March 2002.  In addition to providing key information including date of birth, gender, and legal status, the SOSCARE data also provided a detailed and continuous account of each child’s placement history from their point of entry into care until 31st March 2002.  The placement status of the entire population at 31st March 2004 was provided by the 11 Health and Social Service Trusts (each Trust updating on those children who fell within their jurisdiction) in order to provide a third time point for following the children’s care pathways.

 

2. Case file data

The case files of each child were examined after 31st March 2000, to cover the period up to that point, and after 31 March 2002, to cover the intervening two-year period.  A proforma was used to extract data on factors such as reason(s) for entry into care, child and family background and characteristics, details regarding child health or behaviour problems, and developmental delays.

 

3. Interview data

Parental perspectives were gathered via semi-structured interview to find out how the children were getting on in foster care, adoption, and when returned to birth parents, and to seek parents’ views on issues such as: process involvement; the child settling into the placement; bonding and attachment; contact with birth or previous foster parents; school; friendships; and support issues.  Interviews were conducted with the foster parents of 56 foster children, the adoptive parents of 51 adopted children, and the birth parents of 9 children returned to birth parents.  

 

4. Standardised Measures

During the interviews, parents completed two standardised measures: Goodman’s (1997) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and Abidin’s (1995) Parenting Stress Index – Short Form (PSI-SF).  The SDQ is a behavioural screening questionnaire, measuring a range of domains: emotional symptoms; conduct problems; hyperactivity-inattention; peer problems; prosocial behaviour; and providing a total difficulty score.  The PSI is a measure of stress, and consists of three scales: parental distress; parent-child dysfunctional interaction; and difficult child; as well as a total stress score.