Part Three: How was the study carried out?

Four sources of data were used:

1.    SOSCARE (Social Services Client Administration and Retrieval Environment) data

Data were provided for the full population on 31st March 2000 and again on 31st March 2002.  The SOSCARE data provided general information such as date of birth and gender, and also a detailed account of each child’s placement history since they entered care until 31st March 2002.  The 11 former Health and Social Service Trusts provided information regarding where all the children were living (whether in foster care, adopted, or with birth parents) at 31st March 2004. 

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 two-year period.  They provided information 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

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the foster parents of 56 foster children, the adoptive parents of 51 children, and the birth parents of 8 children returned home.  All foster, adoptive, and birth parents (of children returned home) in the study were approached for interview, and this reflects the number of parents who agreed to be interviewed.  Although all efforts were made to recruit as many birth parents as possible, the low number of interviews reflects the fact that it is much more difficult to reach this group of parents, particularly where a Care Order has been removed. 

4.    Standardised Measures

During the interviews, parents also completed two questionnaires: Goodman’s (1997) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and Abidin’s (1995) Parenting Stress Index – Short Form (PSI-SF).  The SDQ is a questionnaire that evaluates children’s pro-social (helpful) behaviour, as well as behavioural and emotional problems they might have.  The PSI aims to measure parental distress, parent-child difficult interaction, and difficulties with the child. 


Abidin, R. (1995)  The Parenting Stress Index Short Form, Third Edition.  Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Goodman, R. (1997)  The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: A research note.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 581-586.

More useful sources of support and information:

Adoption Information Line: provides information and advice on different aspects of adoption.

Adoption UK: provides support, friendship and information to adopters and prospective adopters.

Advice NI – benefit uptake: This initiative will offer you a FREE, independent and confidential Benefit Entitlement Check to make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to.

Advice Guide: The online Citizens Advice Bureau service that provides independent advice on your rights (including benefits and housing, employment rights and discrimination, debt and tax issues)

Barnardo’s NI: a big children's charity, which runs projects across Northern Ireland such as counselling for children who have been abused, fostering and adoption services, vocational training, and disability inclusion groups.  Find them here:

Information on adoption and fostering:

Barnardo’s PACT Project (offering accommodation, assessment and support to young women aged 16 to 24 years and their children aged from birth to 3 years)

Barnardo’s Parenting Matters: Provides parenting education programmes to groups across Northern Ireland.  It has an accredited parent facilitator training programme.  

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF):  This is a large charity that works with everyone involved with adoption and fostering across the UK, helping agencies find adoptive and permanent foster families for children, publishing expert publications, providing training and advice, and campaigning for changes to policy and practice to improve the lives of children in the care system.

The Fostering Network: Provides training courses for foster carers and fostering services, peer mentoring and advice for sons and daughters of foster carers, and information and counselling services for anyone involved in fostering. 

Care in Crisis: provides help with crisis pregnancy, relationships, miscarriage, bereavement, post-abortion, self-esteem and stress.

Care Pathways and Outcomes: website of this research project.

Children’s Law Centre (based in Northern Ireland): Using the law to promote, protect and realise Children's Rights.

Citizens Advice Bureau: advice charity working against poverty, and meeting the information and advice needs of people in Northern Ireland.

Contact a Family: a UK-wide charity providing support, advice and information for families with disabled children.

Gingerbread Northern Ireland: Organisation supporting one parent families.  

Institute of Child Care Research, Queen’s University Belfast

Northern Ireland Guardian ad Litem Agency (NIGALA): The Guardian ad Litem is an independent officer of the Court who is experienced in working with children and families. Under the Children (NI) Order 1995, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed to safeguard the interests of children who are the subject of Court proceedings.  This may be either adoption or care proceedings.  You will find more information about them in this website:

Northern Ireland Housing Executive:

An introduction to social housing providers in Northern Ireland:

Parents Advice Centre: Help and Support for families.

Voices of Young People in Care (VOYPIC): charity that helps young people in care in Northern Ireland.

Women’s Aid: An organisation that provides a wide range of services to women and children affected by domestic violence throughout Northern Ireland.

Working with Diversity website:

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