Research Update October 2016

Research Update October 2016

Impact of unproven allegations on foster carers

Rees Centre at Oxford University: results have recently been published of a new study of the impact of unproven allegations on foster carers in England. The research involved secondary analysis of 190 anonymised records of allegation cases plus interviews with foster carers, social workers and fostering managers from a subsample of those cases. The study was funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust and FosterTalk.

Key findings:

  • No significant differences were found between the experiences of carers in local

    authorities and independent services, except for one: carers for local authorities were more likely to continue to receive payments following the allegation and pending the outcome. Support from supervising social workers was reported to be similar between both types of service but carers for independent services were more likely to be offered support by the wider agency.

  • Across the two phases of the study, around 85% of carers continued to foster following unproven allegations (higher than predicted on the basis of the pilot study). Support for carers ranged considerably; 40% of responses indicated that carers received no independent support.

  • The main impact on carers was reported to be financial and emotional; upset was caused by the allegation itself and often by subsequent treatment, including lack of information about the allegation and available support.

    Full report available (free) via the Rees Centre website: See also: Biehal, N et al (2014) Keeping children safe: allegations concerning the abuse or

    neglect of children in care.

    An earlier study examining UK data (including Scotland) on allegations in foster care and residential care. The study found an estimated 450 – 550 confirmed cases of abuse/neglect in foster care per year (around a quarter of allegations were confirmed). Lower rates found in Scotland may relate to differences in reporting, but further data would be needed to explore this issue in more depth.

    Full report available (free) from the NSPCC website: and-resources/research-and-resources/2014/keeping-children-safe-allegations-of-abuse/

Adoption and Fostering Alliance


Adolescent-to-parent violence

Selwyn J. and Meakings S. (2016) ‘Adolescent-to-Parent Violence in Adoptive Families’, British Journal of Social Work, 46, 1224-1240.

This new article examines in detail an issue identified in two national studies of disruptions in England (funded by Dept for Education, Westminster) and Wales (funded by Welsh Government). Although those studies found low rates of adoption disruptions overall – 3.2% in England; 2.6% in Wales – they also highlighted unexpectedly high levels of adolescent- to-parent violence among families who had experienced or were at risk for a disruption.

Key findings:

  • Early onset followed by escalation in adolescence was a common pattern; later onset

    (during puberty) was generally followed by rapid escalation and more likely to lead to a


  • Families reported violent, controlling and coercive behaviour, threats of violence and

    feeling that they were ‘living in fear’.

  • Parental feelings of shame, isolation and commitment to children acted as barriers to

    seeking professional help.

  • Authors stress the importance of timely and evidence-informed support for adoptive

    parents, which must be flexible to adapt to changes that emerge post-placement.

    See also for collation of available information on adolescent-to- parent violence.

    Contact from adopters’ perspective

    ‘Parenthood and Open Adoption: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis’ is a study of contact in Northern Ireland, by Mandi MacDonald from Queen’s University Belfast, recently published by Palgrave. It uses a detailed approach to analysing interviews with adoptive parents and reporting on the complexity of kinship in the context of contact with the child’s birth relatives.

    This follows previous articles from the same study that have explored ‘family display’ in adoptive families, adoptive parents’ experiences of contact and talking to their children about adoption and unplanned contact in adolescence. See ResearchGate for further information:

    Current projects

    Kinship care

    Dinithi Wijedasa at University of Bristol is working on a new UK study of kinship care, analysing census data in detail from across the four nations. Analysis of data from England will be published shortly; analysis of data from Scotland to follow. We will keep AFA Scotland members informed of relevant publications.


Adoption and Fostering Alliance


Adoption and Fostering, October 2016 issue, articles now available online include:

  • Hooley et al: Perceptions of which features are considered most important in life

    story work by professionals (psychologists/social workers/family support workers)

    and service users (adopters, foster carers and care leavers).

  • Roberts et al: implementation of the KEEP (Keeping foster carers and kinship carers

    trained and supported) programme for foster and kinship carers The programme was developed in the US and brought to England in 2009 – this article examines the outcomes 6- and 12-months post-training.

    Plans are also underway for a future special issue of Adoption and Fostering on the contribution of neuroscience to family placement policy and practice.

    British Journal of Social Work has put out a call for abstracts for a 2017 special issue on ‘What fresh thinking is needed for child and family social work in the 21st Century?’

    Adoption Quarterly, current issue includes research article on adoptive families’ use of facebook to engage with their child’s birth family (USA).

    Free resources

    CoramBAAF have recently launched a new service for members providing out-of-print books for free electronically via the members’ area of their website

    Three key research titles have been included so far:

  • Adopted Children Speaking (1999, Thomas et al). This remains one of very few

    studies to focus solely on adopted children’s views of their lives and experiences.

  • Permanence and Belonging (2010, Biehal et al). Explores the characteristics,

    outcomes and meanings of belonging and permanence, comparing adoption (by

    strangers or by carers), long-term fostering and special guardianship placements.

  • Adoption for Looked After Children: Messages from Research (2013, Thomas).

    Provides a very helpful summary of findings from across the eight studies that made up the Adoption Research initiative (England). It draws together the cumulative findings on permanence, finding a family, support and support for contact.


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