Practitioners Report

picture of social worker with family

Study Title: Care pathways and outcomes: Following a population of children who were under five years old and in care in Northern Ireland in 2000.

Report Title: From care to where? A care pathways and outcomes report for practitioners

Report Authors: Dominic McSherry, Emma Larkin, Montse Fargas, Greg Kelly, Clive Robinson, Geraldine Macdonald, Dirk Schubotz and Rosemary Kilpatrick

November 2008


Background to the Study: Policy and practice
Background to the Study: Previous research previous research
Statistical Information: Figures from the study
Statistical Information: What influenced where children were living?
The Parent's Perspective
Developing good child-parent relationships: what helped?


The authors would like to thank, first and foremost, the parents who were interviewed during this study, for inviting us into their homes and sharing their experiences. 

We would also like to sincerely thank our funders, the R&D Office, for the opportunity to conduct this longitudinal study over the last seven years. Our thanks also go the Office of Social Services (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland for providing part-funding to conduct the interviews with the adoptive parents. 

We are grateful to the many members of staff within Social Services, and NIGALA, for the support provided in tracking the children’s placements and searching their case files.  Thank you. 

Thanks also to the members of the Institute’s Scientific Advisory Group and Professional Liaison Group for their sound advice and professional expertise and to Andrew Percy for reviewing various draft chapters of our initial report to funders. 

We are indebted to Andy Zinn from Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, for helping us grasp some of the basics of event history analysis.  We would also like to thank Dorota Iwaniec for her support and guidance over the years. Thanks also go to Wendy Cousins and Marina Monteith for their involvement in the early stages of data collection and to the ICCR editorial committee for helpful comments.  Last, but not least, many thanks and much gratitude to Maura Dunn, Grainne McGoldrick, Lisa Monaghan, and Rosaleen Gormley for providing administrative support throughout.   


This booklet is written primarily for professionals who work with children in care and their families on a daily basis, and for academics working in this area.  It is the first in a series of three booklets which have been developed as part of the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study, undertaken by the Institute of Child Care Research, Queen’s University Belfast.

The aim of the study was to explore placements for all children who were under five years old and in public care in Northern Ireland on 31st March 2000.  This included foster care placements, adoption, or the placement of children with their birth parents. The study also sought to determine parents’ views on how these children were managing.

The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study makes an important contribution to the wider knowledge base of processes and outcomes for children in care.  It is a unique study, as it examines a total population of children (at a particular point in time) across a range of care pathways.  Other research in this area largely focuses on sub-samples.  The term ‘foster carer’ is commonly used to define the fostering role, particularly where a placement is short-term and the child has an on-going relationship with the birth parents, however as this research is focused upon more long-term foster placements, the term ‘foster parent’ is used. 

The study addresses four key questions:

  • What are the care pathways for these young children in care? 
  • What, if anything, predicts the type of placements provided for these children? 
  • What are the views of adoptive parents, foster parents, and birth parents (of children returned home from care) regarding the child’s behavioural and emotional development, and the types of stresses involved in caring for the child? 
  • What do adoptive parents, foster parents, and birth parents (of children returned home from care) think about their involvement in the care plan, the process of the child settling in, bonding and attachment, contact with birth parents or previous carers, school, friendships, and support issues?  

The study provides evidence to assist policy makers and practitioners in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain in decision-making regarding the long-term placement of young children in care, and the development of evidence-based practice.  We hope it can contribute to ensuring that every child in care in Northern Ireland achieves the placement that can best meet their needs, and which allows them to achieve their full potential.

You can find out more about the way the study was carried out at the back of the booklet.  The findings will also be presented in a series of journal articles. 

A report for parents, and for children and young people, is available free from here.

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