News and events

New recruitment video released

The Care Pathways and Outcomes study is sharing a recruitment video for the study. The video briefly explains the study and what it involves taking part for young people. The first recruitment letters are also going to be sent by the HSC Trusts and other organisations in due course. We have met with all our advisory groups, and following that, we are refining our data collection instruments, which will be piloted in February.

You can download our Participant Information Sheet for young people HERE.

You can download our Participant Information Sheet for parents and carers HERE.

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New blog for the study

The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study has launched its first blog. The blog aims to be a forum of discussion between practitioners, academics, foster/kinship carers, adoptive parents and young people. Topics of discussion in the blog will be relevant to the study, and will include: foster/kinship care, adoption, young people leaving care, resilience, early adversity, mental health/wellbeing, support, social services, attachment, etc. Posts will be written by members of the research team but also others, such as academics in the field, social care agencies and voluntary organisations, other practitioners, foster/kinship carers, adoptive parents and young people. The blog will also serve to inform of the progress made in the study, and to discuss aspects of it.

Its first post is on the education of young people who have an experience of the care system, and reports on some of the findings from the previous phase, as well as reflecting the views from our consultation events.

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Early consultation process on the new phase

The Care Pathways and Outcomes study has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to continue following this population of children (n=374) who were under the age of five and in care in Northern Ireland on the 31st March 2000. In this new phase, we will attempt to speak to 200 of these young people, who will be now aged 17-22 years old. The research team has been engaging in an early consultation process with a range of key stakeholders and gatekeepers across Northern Ireland, to assist with the selection of outcome indicators, and to identify any additional key issues of interest or concern across the research user community. These are going to be built into a more detailed research proposal that will be reviewed during ORECNI and Research Governance applications. So far, we have spoken to a range of voluntary organisations (i.e., Fostering Network, Adoption UK, and VOYPIC), the HSC Trusts, foster carers, kinship carers, and care experienced young people, among other key stakeholders; and we have some further events planned. 

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Key note address at RAFT seminar

Dr Dominic McSherry gave a key-note address at a Regional Adoption and Fostering Taskforce (RAFT) seminar on the 17th September 2013, in the Waterfoot Hotel, Derry.  The seminar was entitled ‘To Infinity and Beyond: Promoting Permanence for Looked After Children’.  Dr McSherry focused on the findings from the third phase of the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study.  Other speakers included: Mr Robert Tapsfield, Chief Executive of the Fostering Network; Dr Janet Boddy, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY) at the University of Sussex; and Ms Priscilla McLoughlin, Director of BAAF Northern Ireland.  The event was very well attended by senior managers and social work staff across the five HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland, NIGALA, and voluntary agencies.     


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New research provides crucial insight into lives of children in care

The findings from one of the most comprehensive long-term studies ever undertaken into children in care were revealed at Queen’s University Belfast on Wednesday 11 September.

The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study is one of only a small number of studies worldwide that has taken a long-term comparative approach, providing vital information for practitioners. It followed a group of 374 children in care in Northern Ireland, over a 10 year period from 2000 to 2010.

The study’s findings have been published in a book entitled Comparing long-term placements for young children in care, authored by Dominic McSherry, Montserrat Fargas Malet, and Kerrylee Weatherall. The book reports on the most recent phase of the study, which involved interviews with 77 children aged 9-14 and their parents or carers in adoption, foster care, on residence order or living with their birth parents. The British Association for Adoption and fostering (BAAF) have published the book.

The launch of the book was attended by a mixture of senior managers, service leads, practitioners, academics and children’s advocates. Priscilla McLoughlin, Director of BAAF in Northern Ireland, hosted the event. Health and Social Services Minister Edwin Poots gave the keynote speech, which was followed by a presentation of the findings given by Dominic McSherry. Some of the study participants also spoke at the event. These were Patrick, a foster parent, and his daughter (subject to a residence order), Shannon, and Lorraine, an adoptive mother, and her adopted son, Adam. They gave moving accounts of their personal experiences. Greg Kelly, a recently retired senior social work lecturer who was a member of the research team, addressed some of the key implications for practice arising from the findings of the study. This was followed by a panel discussion. The panel included the research team (Dominic McSherry, Montserrat Fargas Malet, Kerrylee Weatherall and Greg Kelly), the study participants, Una Lernihan (Commissioning Lead for Adoption and Permanence, Health and Social Care Board), Frances Nicholson (Social Services Officer, DHSSPS), and Patricia Nicholl (Chief Executive, NIGALA). The concluding remarks were given by Barbara Hudson, Director of BAAF Scotland.

Commending the research team, the Minister said: “As Minister with responsibility for children and young people who are in the care system, I want to be assured that the quality of care provided for them is of the highest standard; that we are offering them the best chance of permanence and stability; that they are being enabled and facilitated to take part in decisions about their care and that they are being afforded the same opportunities as children and young people outside the care system.

“I want to congratulate the research team at Queen’s University for undertaking this important study. It is vital that we carefully consider the key messages emanating from such research to inform future policy and determine best practice on how to meet the long term needs of children in care.”

Priscilla McLoughlin, Director of BAAF in Northern Ireland said: “BAAF is privileged to publish the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study. The study is hugely important because those who make decisions about looked-after children’s long-term care need to understand how the children fare in each of the long-term care placements. It is also crucial in that it follows a group of children in Northern Ireland and takes account of how our unique demographic, social and structural issues. Its longitudinal nature is also important, providing an opportunity to consider the long-term implications of care options for children and for their parents and carers.”

Dr Dominic McSherry, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Child Care Research at Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, said: “This study reveals a number of crucial insights and patterns about the lives of young children in care. They are important signposts for the professionals involved in the sector, and for parents and guardians.

“For example, until now adoption was considered the gold standard in long-term care placements. One of our key findings, however, is that from the children’s perspective, it doesn’t appear to matter significantly what the placement is, be it fostering, adoption, kinship care, residence order or returning to birth parents. It is the longevity of placement that appears to be the most important factor in achieving positive outcomes for these children, so long as they enter long-term placements at an early age.”

Findings included in the book, relating to the group of 9-14 year olds and their parents and carers, are:

  • Within Northern Ireland, the Southern and Northern Health Trusts have the highest numbers of adoptions, the Western has the highest number of children in foster care and the South Eastern Trust, the highest levels of children returning home to their birth parents.
  •  Despite a positive level of openness between parents/carers and their children across placement types, adoptive parents and some foster and kinship carers found it difficult to talk to children about their birth families and past history. Birth parents also found it difficult to talk to their children about the past.
  • Many adoptive parents highlighted a sense of being isolated after the adoption order, without access to a formalised support mechanism.
  • Eight of the 77 children interviewed had been diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), and 5 of these were in the adopted group.

The new book Comparing long-term placements for young children in care is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland. Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of Health and Social Care Research and Development, a division of the PHA, said: “While this study provides a positive contribution to the experiences and outcomes of looked-after children, it also focuses on those areas which require significant attention from policy makers; service managers and practitioners. It provides an evidence base for decision making in relation to the health and wellbeing of young children being looked after.”

Comparing long-term placements for young children in care is priced £14.95 and is available from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.

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 New book authored by ICCR researchers is released

The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study book has been now published by BAAF. The book, entitled Comparing long-term placements for young children in care - The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study - Northern Ireland, presents the findings of the latest phase of this longitudinal study, which began in 2000. It is authored by Dominic McSherry, Montserrat Fargas Malet, and Kerrylee Weatherall.

The study, funded by the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland, has followed the progress of a population of children, initially aged 5 years and under, in the Looked After system. It compares outcomes across a range of coping indicators between various placement paths. This book will provide useful information for social work and legal practitioners in terms of long-term planning for Looked After children.

The book will be launched on Wednesday 11th September 2013 at 1.00 pm, in the Canada Room, Queen's University Belfast. Edwin Poots, Minister for Health Social Services and Public Safety, will speak at the event.

More information about the book.

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