Children Order Advisory Committee Multi–Disciplinary Newsletter 11th Edition

Issue 11 Summer 2010


I am pleased to introduce the eleventh edition of the Children Order Advisory Committee’s Multi-Disciplinary Newsletter. The aim of the newsletter is to share information relating to children and families that will assist professionals across a range of disciplines to discharge their responsibilities under The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The committee are keen to ensure that the newsletter is distributed widely to professionals. As such, if you know of any individuals or groups that would appreciate being included on the circulation list please send their email address to

Recently the newsletter has been expanded to include a new section providing the opportunity to exchange information and to share new developments within the work of agencies and disciplines associated with the Children Order Advisory Committee. In April 2010 the second edition of the Children Order Advisory Committee Best Practice Guidance was published – details of how to access it are included inside this edition of the newsletter. Additionally we have an article exploring the high levels of bereavement for children in secure care, and a further article reporting a concurrent planning service being rolled out by a local NGO. As usual the newsletter continues to provide details of recent judgements and new publications of relevance and interest to child care professionals in Northern Ireland.

The newsletter is divided into three sections. The first section lists the content with links to the more detailed summaries contained in the next two sections. The second section contains the information exchange whilst the third section contains the summaries of key literature. The material in this section is arranged under four subject headings: Law reports; Child Welfare; Medicine and Psychology; and, Youth Justice.

Where possible the summaries contain hyperlinks to the original material. In other instances professionals will need to make arrangements within their own organisation to access full copies of the material listed. For example, professionals working within Health & Social Care can access journal articles and books through the Health on the Net Northern Ireland ( and the Medical Library at Queen’s University.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Dr Fionnuala Leddy in the compilation of material for the newsletter. Fionnuala is stepping down from the editorial committee, and I will miss the significant contribution she has made over the past few years. The Committee and I wish her well in the future.

We welcome all comments about how the newsletter could be improved and any recommendations from readers of material to include in future editions. Please send these to

Previous editions of the newsletter are also available to download or view at:

Some older editions have been archived and can be obtained by contacting


His Honour Judge Derek Rodgers

Chair of the Multi-Disciplinary Literature Sub-Committee

The Editorial Committee

Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Rodgers
Editor Dr John Devaney

School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social Work,

Queen’s University Belfast

  Ms Siobhan Keegan


  Dr Fionnuala Leddy

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

  Dr Catherine Macpherson

Consultant Paediatrician, South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust


Ms Robyn McCready

Information Officer, Children in Northern Ireland

Dr Dominic McSherry

Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Child Care Research, Queen’s University Belfast

Mr Michael Heaney

Assistant Director, Youth Justice Agency

Section One

New Developments

Law Reports

(Compiled by Siobhan Keegan)

Child Welfare

(Compiled by Dominic McSherry, Robyn McCready and John Devaney)



Medicine and Psychology

(Compiled by John Devaney)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Youth Justice

(compiled by Michael Heaney)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles



Forthcoming Events


New Developments

The Children Order Advisory Committee Best Practice Guidance (Second edition)

On 22nd April 2010 His Honour Mr Justice Weir, Head of the Family Division of the Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland, and Chair of the Children Order Advisory Committee, launched an updated and fully revised version of the Committee’s Best Practice Guidance. The guidance is now available, freely, online, in order to ensure that it may be updated regularly.

To access the guidance:

  1. Go to the SLS Legal Publications website
  2. Click on the link (Online Publications COAC Best Practice Guidance) at the bottom of the first page of the website
  3. Click on the “Sign Up” button to create your account
  4. Type in your username (preferably initial and surname with no spaces e.g. mdudley this is not case sensitive) followed by your real name and then your email address
  5. You will be sent an automated welcome email from SLS with your username and a password. Print this out or note down the password or copy and paste the password. Please retain for future reference.
  6. Click on the link within the email which will return you to the “Log In” screen
  7. Type your username and password when prompted. The system can remember your password if you tell it to do so.
  8. Click on COAC Best Practice Guidance 2nd ed 2010 in either Word or PDF formats
  9. The document will then download but may take a few moments as it is 265 pages long

Where you see highlighted text in the guidance, simply click on that link to move to that section of the text. This will usually be where one of the numerous appendices is being referred to. If you wish to return to where you were in the text press the Alt key and the left arrow key together.

There are also links to some external websites such as the DHSSPS and the Statute Law Database. Again simply clicking on the highlighted text should take you to those sites. Use the “go back” button on top left of screen to return to the Guidance.

The Issue of Childhood Bereavement for Young People in Secure Accommodation

Teresa Geraghty, NCB

During 2007/08 NCB (the National Children’s Bureau) NI was commissioned by the (then) four Health and Social Services Boards in Northern Ireland to conduct a review of the use of secure accommodation. The research focused on all of the children and young people who were assessed as being in need of secure care during a full year whether or not they were actually accommodated in a secure care facility. The final sample of young people totalled 63.

In addition to conducting an examination of the case files of these 63 young people, a survey was conducted with field-work social workers and interviews were carried out with key informants such as social work managers from the Trusts and Boards, staff at the regional secure facility, Guardians ad Litem and with young people themselves who had experience of secure care.

The findings from the research are presented in the full report under two broad themes: firstly, the characteristics and need of the young people in the sample and the services they receive, and secondly, the operation of the secure care system and the contribution it makes to meeting the needs of the young people.

One of the issues which emerged from the research was that of bereavement.

Key findings in relation to bereavement include the following:

The figure of 49% is much higher than other studies (e.g. Walker et al’s Scottish study, 2006) and is over 10 times that in the population generally - which is estimated at 4% who have been bereaved of a parent or sibling (Penny, 2007; NCB 2007) - though of course our definition was wider than just parents or siblings.

There was a difference in the causes of death which were quite significant. Older relations such as grandparents tended to die from natural causes whereas the deaths of other parents, siblings, other relatives and friends tended to be more traumatic and violent. Murder, suicide, drug or alcohol abuse and road traffic accidents were cited in 11 cases specifically. Any bereavement is stressful and can be traumatic. When that bereavement occurs in an already fractured and fragile family who lack resources to cope then the results can be devastating. According to Ribbens et al (2005) this is especially so if the trauma ‘is not recognised and addressed’.

However, our examination of the case files in the sample for this research indicates that in only two cases was the need for grief work or bereavement counselling specifically mentioned. This was at the time of assessment (of the need for secure care). It was not mentioned at all before this stage and neither was it mentioned six months post secure care/post assessment (for those not accommodated).

During the interviews held with young people only one young woman mentioned her request for bereavement counselling. She said:

“I kept asking my social worker for [bereavement counselling] and he kept saying, yeah, he would do it and he never done it and then when I got in here [secure facility] I just said ‘I won’t be able to go through my time in here without having it’ and just about two days after they got me bereavement counselling.”

Possible explanations as to why this need was not recognised more include the following:

The majority of the field social workers felt that staff did have the skills to meet the needs of the young people they worked with, including dealing with the issue of grief. However, many also pointed out that the way the care system operated limited the way staff skills and expertise were harnessed. Factors such as high staff turnover, lack of experience and differences in the manner in which people worked hindered such work. In addition there was a recognition that secure care has its limitations.

Suggestions for improvement include:

The full report can be accessed on the NCB website

If you or your organisation would like to receive a dissemination workshop on this research, please contact Teresa Geraghty at NCB NI:

Concurrent Planning: a new initiative in securing timely permanence for children.

Rosemary Hurl, Family Care Society

Concurrent planning is the process of working towards family re-unification while at the same time establishing an alternative permanent plan for a child in care. It aims to:

Family Care Society (FCS), a voluntary adoption agency, has been placing older children and children with special needs for adoption for 25 years. These children have been aged between 2 and 8 years of age, the majority of them having been in care most of their lives. Had permanence been achieved earlier, the difficulties many of these children have experienced could undoubtedly have been minimised.

Timescales for achieving permanence for some children is an ongoing issue in Northern Ireland. The number of adoption placements has decreased significantly; in freeing consolidation proceedings, the average duration of proceedings has significantly increased (NIGALA Annual Report 2009). A number of practice initiatives have previously attempted to address these issues by, for example, placing children with dual approved carers ahead of Freeing Orders being granted. Article 9 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 requires that the welfare of the child is the most important consideration.

In 1999, Homefirst Trust began to recruit dual approved carers, providing stability of care to young children, and a twin track approach to permanence planning, while legal proceedings were ongoing, However, none of these children returned home to birth parents and all remained in their placements as adopted children. (Kelly et al, 2007).

Why Concurrent Planning?

In the United States and England Concurrent Planning Projects have attempted to provide intensive support for birth parents, children and carers and in Northern Ireland we are in a position to learn from their experience. These projects have provided a body of cohesive evidence of interventions and outcomes and timely achievement of permanence for children.

FCS has now established the Unite Concurrent Planning Project, a new and exciting initiative in this jurisdiction. The primary aim is to unite children to their permanent families, either birth or adoptive, within the timeframe when a child is able to form a secure meaningful attachment.

Unite will liaise with a Trust to identify young children likely to be subject to lengthy legal proceedings and at risk of experiencing multiple care placements. The families accepted will be those deemed to be at the more serious end of the spectrum of risk.  The child will be matched with appropriate concurrent carers who are willing to care for the child initially on a fostering basis but with a view to adoption should rehabilitation to the child’s birth family not be achieved. Concurrent carers will be faced with many challenges and will receive a high level of support from Unite to assist them in their role.

Once a child is placed, Unite will undertake a comprehensive support, education and assessment programme with birth parents. Throughout this robust process staff will actively work with birth parents, providing practical parenting advice and guidance to assist them in making the changes necessary to enable them to care for their child permanently. Birth parents will be assisted in accessing appropriate specialist intervention as necessary (psychiatric, addictions, anger management services) to assist them in making life changes necessary to parent safely.

The child remains in one secure placement throughout, with the concurrent carers facilitating regular contact between birth parents and their child. This will take place at Unite premises, with the same staff supporting parents and assessing their parenting ability, thus providing consistency.

Unite staff will collate evidence for the Court and agencies of birth parents’ motivation and abilities to meet their child’s needs, and with an assessed level of risk associated with rehabilitation.

If the Court decides that the birth parents are able to meet the needs of the child, concurrent carers will be involved in helping the child return in a planned way to their birth family. If the Court decides that a return to birth family is not in the child’s best interests, the child will remain with the concurrent carers and with the aim of being adopted by them.


Concurrent planning puts the needs of children and their parents firmly at the centre of the process within a select minority of families which might otherwise be seen to be experiencing intractable problems. Evidence from similar projects in England (Goodman, Manchester; Coram, London) indicates that levels of rehabilitation to birth family are nevertheless relatively small, between 7 -10%; but working with such programmes maximises birth parents’ potential to parent in a supportive, encouraging environment. Where adoption is the outcome a relationship has been established between parents and carers which forms a good foundation for future contact.

The Project team is organising a seminar for judiciary and family lawyers on concurrent planning, to take place in the autumn. This will be followed by a formal launch. If you would like further information please contact Family Care Society at 028 9069 1133.

Law Reports

(Compiled by Siobhan Keegan)


An important decision of the Supreme Court Re W deals with the issue of when children should be called to court to give evidence in the context of Article 6 fairness. In Northern Ireland the decision of Mr Justice Stephens in Caitrin, Dona and Elliott is a stark example of parental emotional abuse. Re Luke deals with proper allocation of proceedings and administrative transfers. Re C&D is an interesting case dealing with the new forced marriage legislation and in RE EG Mr Justice Weir conducts a fact finding in relation to how a child was conceived in the context of a refusal of contact.

RE W (Children) REV 2 2010 UKSC 12

This case involved care proceedings relating to five children, a girl aged 14 and her four half siblings. The proceedings began because the 14 year old made allegations of sexual abuse against her step father. The case was set up for a fact finding hearing. The local authority decided not to call the child complainant but to rely on her ABE interview. The father applied for her to be called however this was refused. That was the point at issue in the Supreme Court. The question was whether the current practice of rarely calling children to give live evidence could be reconciled with the Convention rights or even the elementary principles of justice.

Lady Hale reflects that there many reasons for leaving the status quo as it is. However she goes on to consider Article 6. She decides that the starting point should not be that it is only in exceptional circumstances that the child should be called. Rather, that a balance is to be struck in each particular case on each particular set of facts and the issue should be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity at case management or directions.

RE Caitrin, Dona and Elliot (Care Proceedings: Fact Finding) 2010 NI FAM 1

This was a fact finding case involving three children. There were allegations of abuse made by and against their father and mother. This case started as a private law dispute but such was the level of concern that the Trust intervened and by the date of hearing the two eldest children were placed in care and the youngest child was placed with the mother, all under the auspices of care orders. The father was a personal litigant. The Judge deals with the allegations comprehensively and finds that the children have suffered abuse whilst in the care of their father and also that they have been influenced by their father against their mother to an extreme level.

Luke (Allocation of Proceedings: Administrative Transfer) 2010 NI FAM 5

This case involved a child born in Northern Ireland in 2008.His mother was South African and his father Northern Irish. The parent’s relationship ended in 2007 and the mother wanted to return to South Africa with the child to avail of family supports. The father opposed this course. The Judge was concerned about the delay in getting this case before the High Court. He referred to it taking 4 months to transfer the case from Family Proceedings to the High Court. He pointed out that this should effectively have been an administrative transfer with a properly constructed time table put before the various courts to ensure swift and efficient proceedings .He referred to the fact that whilst the guide to case management does not deal with private law the principles have a general application and if applied would lead to more efficient management.

G & D (Risk of Forced Marriage: Forced Marriage Protection Order) 2010 NI FAM6

This case involved two female children aged 12 and 14 who were British but of Pakistani origin. There were previous wardship proceedings and at previous proceedings it was established that their parents had taken two elder brothers to Pakistan and they were both forced to marry. This case involved the girl’s mother wanting to take the children to Pakistan for educational purposes. The HSC Trust did not accept the mother’s intentions and applied for an order under Schedule 1 to the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.The Judge weighed up the facts and considered Article 8 of the ECHR before deciding to make an order under the forced marriage legislation.

RE EG (A Child) 2010 NI FAM 7

This case involved a child born in 2006.His father was a foreign national who had not seen the child at all. In 2007 he made an application for contact. The Judge refers to the delay in this application being heard. As part of the application the putative father was interviewed by social services as was the mother. The mother said she was opposed to contact or even revealing the father’s identity as she said the child was conceived as a result of rape. A fact finding took place and the Judge found that the rape could not be made out and therefore the grounds for refusing contact were rejected.

Child Welfare

(Compiled by Dominic McSherry, Robyn McCready and John Devaney)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Aldgate, A. (2009) Living in kinship care: a child-centred view. Adoption & Fostering 33(3) 51–63.

The author describes findings from a Scottish research study on kinship care. Her article is drawn from a commissioned study which informed a government review of children looked after by local authorities in Scotland in 2006. The article presents the perspectives of the 30 children in the study on living in kinship care. It explores children’s understanding of the reasons for their placements and their views on the future, as well as on the roles and tasks of social workers. Children speak of both the negative and positive challenges of living in kinship care, including maintaining contact with parents and siblings. Children’s everyday lives, including experiences of school, peers and activities are recounted. The article ends by describing the Scottish Government’s new policy for improving services for children in kinship care.

Archard, D., & Skivenest, M. (2010) Hearing the child. Child & Family Social Work 14(4) 391-399.

Given that in their view the child has a fundamental right to be heard in all collective deliberative processes determining his or her future, they set out, firstly, what is required of such processes to respect this right – namely that the child's authentic voice is heard and makes a difference – and, secondly, the distance between this ideal and practice exemplified in the work of child welfare and child protection workers in Norway and the UK, chiefly in their display of an instrumental attitude to children's views.

Argent, H. (2009) What’s the problem with kinship care? Adoption & Fostering, 33(3) 6–14.

This article is based on Hedi Argent’s recent book, Ten Top Tips: Supporting kinship placements. Here she explores the barriers to best practice in family and friends placements. Her experience of working with children and families in both local authorities and voluntary agencies goes back nearly 40 years and follows the journey of kinship care from being an informal private arrangement to becoming the statutorily acknowledged first consideration for all children who need alternative family placements.

Broadhurst, K. & Holt, K. (2010) Partnership and the limits of procedure: prospects for relationships between parents and professionals under the new Public Law Outline. Child & Family Social Work 15(1) 97-106.

April 2008 saw the introduction of a new Public Law Outline (PLO) that aims to improve judicial case management of Public Law Children Act cases in England and Wales. The PLO is a response to concerns about the rising number of care proceedings, associated costs, and the difficulties of achieving case resolution given this volume. Based on an ethos that care proceedings should be avoided wherever possible, the new approach to case management, which places significant emphasis on pre-proceedings work and the effective engagement of parents, can be seen to reinforce the 'no order principle' enshrined in the Children Act (CA) 1989. Focusing specifically on relationships between parents and professionals, this paper provides a critical discussion of the potential of the PLO to further promote consensual practices with parents. Discussion traces the introduction of the concept of partnership within the CA 1989, provides a review of the evidence to-date of effective partnership working, before considering the prospects for the PLO with respect to parental engagement. A number of key contextual obstacles are highlighted that will inevitably undermine the aspirations of the new outline, and a more general observation is drawn about the limits of procedure in effecting change in complex social issues.

Davies, J., Wright, J., Drake, S., and Bunting, J. (2009) ‘By listening hard’: developing a service-user feedback system for adopted and fostered children in receipt of mental health services. Adoption & Fostering 33(4) 19–33.

Adopted and looked after children are often excluded from service-user involvement. The purpose of the study reported was to develop methodologies to facilitate the inclusion of junior-school-aged children to reflect on their experience of participating in psychological therapy. Exclusively recruiting this group enabled the authors to develop age-specific techniques. The clinical implications for therapeutic practice and an effective methodology to ascertain children’s perceptions of therapy are discussed. The overarching message is that children with disrupted attachments can be engaged in reflective discussions about mental health services when a methodology is developed specifically for them.

Donnelly, C. (2010) Reflections of a Guardian Ad Litem on the Participation of Looked-after Children in Public Law Proceedings. Child Care in Practice 16(2): 181-193.

There is much debate about the rights of children relating to the nature and degree of their participation in Public Law Proceedings. Articles 12 (1) and 12 (2) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 emphasise that children should be involved in decision-making about their welfare; and children who are capable of expressing their views should be given an opportunity to be heard in legal proceedings. This article is based on the reflective experience of a Guardian Ad Litem regarding the participation of “looked-after children” in Public Law Proceedings in Northern Ireland. It considers the nature and extent of variation in the elicitation, interpretation and use of a child's views, including the various expectations and misconceptions that may arise due to a lack of understanding and appreciation about the way in which to “weight” and use respectfully a child's wishes and feelings. There appears to be considerable variation in the way in which a child's expression of their “wishes and feelings” is used in the decision-making process. For example, one approach perceives a child as having an unequivocal right to have their views considered as the primary factor in decisions about their welfare while another approach holds that the views of relevant adults relative to children's views should have prominence in the decision-making process. Whilst it is important and beneficial to elicit children's views, due attention and care needs to be given to informing children appropriately about the weight that will be given to the expression of their wishes and feelings in decisions about their welfare, including the possibility that a final decision may not concur with their views.

Fargas Malet, M., McSherry, D., Larkin, E., Kelly, G., & Robinson, C. (2010) Young children returning home from care: the birth parents' perspective. Child & Family Social Work 15(1) 77-86.

While a wide range of literature exists on the experiences of children in foster care or adoption, much less is known about children who return home from care to their birth parents. This paper focuses on the perspectives of a small sample of birth parents of young children who returned home from care. It draws on findings from the Northern Ireland Care Pathways and Outcomes Study that has been following a population (n = 374) of children who were under 5 years and in care in Northern Ireland on the 31st of March 2000. As part of this study, interviews were conducted with the foster parents of 55 children, the adoptive parents of 51 children and the birth parents of nine children who had returned home from care. The paper explores the birth parents' views on how they coped while their child was in care, how they were coping after the child had returned home and how their child was faring at home. Results revealed that these parents, and their children, were experiencing multiple difficulties and struggled to cope after the children had returned home.

Farmer, E. (2009) Making kinship care work. Adoption & Fostering 33(3) 15–27.

Policy and practice developments need to be based on firm evidence about how well kinship care works and the services required to maintain these placements. The reported research was based on case file reviews of 270 children, half in kin placements and half in non-kin foster care, and on interviews with a sub-sample of 32 kin carers, social workers, children and parents. The study found that while the children were remarkably similar in the two kinds of placement, kin carers, in contrast, were significantly more disadvantaged than stranger foster carers. They also faced more hostility from parents during contact. The children’s outcomes in terms of placement quality and disruption in the two settings were also very similar. However, because kin carers persisted with very challenging children and yet received fewer services than stranger foster carers, they were more often under strain. This article compares the characteristics of carers and children in the two kinds of placement and examines the impact of the children on the kin carers and the strains they experienced. It also considers the services received and needed by kin carers and children. The implications for policy and practice are examined.

Farmer, E. (2010) What Factors Relate to Good Placement Outcomes in Kinship Care? British Journal of Social Work 40(2): 426-444.

Since recent legislation and other developments are likely to lead to increased use of placements with kin, this paper considers the evidence base about the factors that relate to good outcomes in kinship care in England. It is based on a study using case file reviews on 270 children, half of whom were in kin and half in stranger foster care, and interviews with a sub-sample of thirty-two family and friends carers and a number of social workers, parents and children. The placement outcomes considered were placement quality and disruption. The study found that the kin placements that were most likely to disrupt were those in which children were older at placement, showed difficult behaviour, there was an absence of high carer commitment and contact was not supervised. There were also lower levels of disruption in placements with grandparents and when kin carers had been approved as foster carers and so received financial and practical support. However, poorer quality placements lasted significantly longer in kin than in stranger foster care. Moreover, the outcomes of kin placements turned out to vary widely by local authority. The implications of these findings for policy and practice are considered.

Kendrick, J. (2009) Concurrent planning: a retrospective study of the continuities and discontinuities of care, and their impact on the development of infants and young children placed for adoption by the Coram Concurrent Planning Project. Adoption & Fostering 33(4) 5-18.

This study looks at the impact on the children of the intensive contact with birth parents that is an integral part of concurrent planning (CP) placements. While there is an assumption of the benefits of continuity and of a reduction in numbers of placements for infants, there can also be discontinuities caused by the frequency of contact sessions and separations from carers. CP carers of 27 children who were later adopted, and of one who was rehabilitated to birth parents, reflected retrospectively on the experience of contact for the infants. For these children, concurrent planning achieved early placements – the majority by five years of age – that led to permanency. Any discontinuities at the time seemed to be compensated for in the long term by the attachments to their CP carers. Some recommendations to reduce the effects of the discontinuities are considered in relation to particular stages in the emotional development of the infants.

Lutman, E., Hunt, J. & Waterhouse, S. (2009) Placement stability for children in kinship care: a long-term follow-up of children placed in kinship care through care proceedings. Adoption & Fostering 33(3) 28–39.

One of the key arguments put forward for the benefits of kinship placements is that they are likely to provide permanency for children. However, little is known about the factors which promote placement stability or the reasons for placement disruption. This article examines placement stability and disruption for a cohort of children placed in kinship care through care proceedings. When compared with disruption rates for other forms of care, it appears that for younger children kinship care can be a positive option but the figures are less positive for older children. However, after disruption over half of the kinship-placed children remained within their family networks and many kinship carers retained a positive relationship with the child. The findings indicate placements of older children, placements with aunts/uncles and placements where the carer and child are less familiar with each other are more likely to disrupt and thus may need more support.

McKeigue, B. and Beckett, C. (2010) Squeezing the Toothpaste Tube: Will Tackling Court Delay Result in Pre-Court Delay in its Place? British Journal of Social Work 40(1): 154-169.

This article is the first to report on a study that tracked all the care proceedings initiated by an English local authority over a one-year period, obtaining factual information and opinions from the social workers involved in the case through the use of guided interviews. The main objective of the researchers was to contribute to understanding of ways in which children are kept waiting in difficult and insecure situations for decisions to be made about their long-term future. This article focuses in particular on the problem of delays that occur prior to a case coming into the court arena. The article offers evidence that current initiatives to reduce court delay may have the unintended result of increasing pre-court delay.

McLeod, A. (2010) ‘A Friend and an Equal’: Do Young People in Care Seek the Impossible from their Social Workers? British Journal of Social Work 40(3): 772-788.

Recent policy initiatives have begun to recognize something that has long been indicated by research findings and by studies of young people's views: that, for children in local authority care, having a positive and sustained personal relationship with their social worker promotes their well-being. This article presents findings from a research study in which the views of young people in care were elicited on the role of the social worker. Their response, that a good social worker is like a ‘friend’ and an ‘equal’, appears to challenge notions of the professional social work role. However, attention to the detail of what the young people meant by these terms demonstrates that, in fact, they are compatible with social work values and best practice. It is argued that, in order to accord with these young people's wishes and with research findings on what promotes best outcomes for looked after young people, social workers must be enabled to give more time to sustained direct work with children in care. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

McSherry, D., Weatherall, K., Larkin, E. Fargas Malet, M. & Kelly, G. (2010) Who goes where? Young children’s pathways through care in Northern Ireland. Adoption & Fostering 34(2).

This is a preliminary paper reporting on a large-scale longitudinal study, the ‘Northern Ireland Care Pathways and Outcomes Study’. The study has been examining a population of young children (n=374) who were in care under five years of age in Northern Ireland, and initially followed them across a four-year period (2000-2004). It has mapped these young children’s care careers, and explored factors relating to five care pathways that these children progressed along, i.e. towards adoption; long-term non-relative foster care; long-term relative foster care; Residence Order; and return to birth parent/s. The paper examines the children’s care pathway patterns from 2000 to 2004, and identifies the background factors that appear to have influenced their specific care pathway. These background factors relate to the age of child, length of time in care, the child’s health, the child’s behaviour and regional variation.  The findings indicate that although the care pathway patterns were to some extent similar to England and Wales, there were differences apparent to the Northern Ireland context. This study seeks to provide information that will assist in the decision-making process regarding the placement of young children in care, and help towards ensuring that every child achieves the best possible long-term placement.

Thomas, T. (2010) A presumption to disclose: new laws on the provision of information about child sex offenders to parents in England and Wales. Child Abuse Review 19(2): 97-106.

In England and Wales, agencies managing child sex offenders in the community have long had the power to disclose information on those offenders to other agencies and sometimes to individual members of the public; this process has variously been referred to as discretionary disclosure or controlled disclosure. In 2008, new laws were passed to strengthen this process and allow designated members of the public to request such information and imposed a new duty on agencies considering disclosure to conduct those considerations with a ‘presumption to disclose. This article looks at the background to the new laws and how they might work in practice.

Willis, R., & Holland, S. (2009) Life story work: reflections on the experience by looked after young people. Adoption & Fostering 33(4) 44-52.

This article reports on a qualitative study of young people’s experiences of life story work. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 12 young people aged 11─18 years, who are looked after by one local authority in South Wales. They had experienced a wide range of styles and content of life story work. The young people reflected on both the emotional aspects of the work and the new information they had gained about their own histories. Life story work invoked a range of emotions among participants, including tedium, pleasure, anger and sadness. It also appeared to have a function in helping young people work out aspects of their identity. All were positive about the experience, although a small number had found the process tedious at times or intrusive to their everyday lives. Most envisaged a future role for the life story books in their lives, expecting to return to the work for their own reflection or to show it to others. The article concludes that both the process of life story work and the material record produced are important to looked after young people. The paucity of empirical studies in this area is noted and suggestions for future research are made.

Winter, K. (2010) The perspectives of young children in care about their circumstances and implications for social work practice. Child & Family Social Work 15(2) 186-195.

Recent reviews of research regarding children in care have concluded that there remains little research which specifically focuses on young children. This paper presents the findings of research carried out with a sample of young children in care (aged 4–7 years) regarding their perspectives of their circumstances. The findings reveal that they have deeply held views regarding living with risk; removal from their families; unresolved feelings of guilt and loss; and not being listened to. This paper considers the implications of these findings for social work practice. It concludes by stressing the capacity of young children in care to express their perspectives, and the importance of practitioners seeking these views and incorporating them into assessment and decision-making processes.


Area Child Protection Committees and NSPCC (2010) Attitudes towards Child Protection in Northern Ireland: A survey by the four Area Child Protection Committees and NSPCC. Belfast, HSC Board.

The survey was designed to examine levels of confidence among the general public in Northern Ireland in relation to: recognising the signs of abuse; reporting behaviours and the barriers experienced; identifying the main concerns of the public and parents relating to child safety; the views of parents, and their experiences, on a range of issues including: Internet safety, Physical punishment, Bullying, Child protection in community and sporting organisations, and the Keeping Safe Curriculum in schools.

Fostering Network (2010) Love Fostering - Need Pay: A UK-wide survey of foster carers about fees. London, Fostering Network.

This report sets out the current situation with regard to foster carers’ income, based on evidence from over 2,000 foster carers who participated in a survey on a voluntary basis in 2009. It makes the case for improving foster carers’ pay

Martynowicz, A., Toucas, S. and Caughey, A. (2010) The Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland. Institute for Conflict Research, Belfast.

This report presents the findings of this study in relation to the nature and extent of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. The findings of the study also highlight significant gaps in the knowledge about the extent and nature of trafficking, and reveal that any coherent system of data collection in Northern Ireland is virtually non-existent.

New Economics Foundation and Action for Children (2009) Backing the Future: Why investing in children is good for us all. NEF, London.

Backing the Future provides the economic and social case for transforming the way we invest in the future of society through our children. The report makes clear the need for a comprehensive investment programme in preventative services for children and young people that would both save spending on dealing with the impact of problems later, and deliver wider benefits to society. To achieve lasting change, Backing the Future demonstrates why it is essential to address the impact of the structural factors affecting the circumstances of children’s lives, such as poverty and inequality, together with psychological and social dimensions of their well-being. We show how this can be achieved and present an economic model for how the UK Government could fund a transition to a more preventative system, therefore turning aspiration into reality.

Robertson, J., Hatton, C., Emerson, E., Wells, E., Collins, M., Langer, S. Welch, V. (2010) The impacts of short break provision on disabled children and families: an international literature review. London, DCSF.

This review aims to systematically evaluate the existing international research evidence concerning the impact of short breaks, to determine where there is robust evidence for the impact of short breaks on families with a disabled child and where more evidence is needed.

Shaw, C., Brodie, I., Ellis, A., Graham, B., Mainey, A., de Sousa, S. and Wilmott, N. (2010) Research into private fostering. London, DCSF.

This research had two broad aims. Firstly, to collect evidence of the practices and procedures of local authorities in relation to private fostering arrangements in England, in order to inform thinking on how to increase notification rates; and secondly, to improve understanding of the characteristics and needs of privately fostered children, with particular reference to safeguarding issues.


Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2010) Publication of 'Care Leavers Aged 16-18 Statistical Bulletin 2008/09. Belfast, DHSSPS.

The bulletin summarizes information on young people who left care aged 16-18 in Northern Ireland during the year ending 31 March 2009.

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2010) Publication of 'Children Order' Statistical Tables for Northern Ireland 2008/09. Belfast, DHSSPS.

The bulletin provides information on a range of issues relating to children’s social care including child protection, children in need, looked after children, and day care provision for children in Northern Ireland.

Medicine and Psychology

(Compiled by John Devaney)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Adcock, C. (2009) Obtaining consent for child protection medical assessments. Child Abuse Review 18(5): 354-362.

This short report sets out the legal requirement, and process, for seeking consent for child protection medical assessments, and what action may be taken if consent is not given.

James-Ellison M.Y., Barnes P., Maddocks A.J., Wareham K., Drew P., Dickson W., Lyons R. & Hutchings H.A. (2009) Social health outcomes following thermal injuries: a retrospective matched cohort study. Archives of Diseases of Childhood. 94: 663–667.

Introduction Over 50% of children admitted with burns are under 3 years. US studies suggest that up to 26% of childhood burns are non-accidental although UK reports are lower (1–16%).

Objectives To determine the social health outcomes of burned children in terms of the number of children abused, neglected or ‘in need’ before the age of 6 years compared with matched controls.

Methods A retrospective matched cohort study. A total of 145 burns admissions aged under 3 years between 1994 and 1997 were matched with controls for sex, age and enumeration district and followed up until 2003. Electronic routine databases provided study data on Local Authority Care episodes and Social Service Referrals by age 6 years.

Results Of them, 89.0% were accidental burns and 4 cases (2.8%) were judged to have non-accidental burns following Child Protection Case Conference. No case was attributed to neglect. By their sixth birthday, cases were statistically more likely to have been referred to Social Services with 14 (9.7%) of the burned children having been abused or neglected versus 2 (1.4%) of controls (95% CI 0.030–0.13, P = 0.004). Forty-six (32%) of cases versus 26 (18%) controls were defined as ‘in need’ (95% CI 0.047–0.23, P = 0.006).

Conclusion Although most burns were deemed accidental, 2.8% were categorized as non-accidental at presentation. Almost a third of the burned children went on to be ‘in need’. Children with a burn appear to be at higher risk of further abuse or neglect compared with controls. A burn therefore could be a surrogate marker indicating a need for closer supervision and follow up by professionals.

Pearce A., Li L., Abbas J., Ferguson B., Graham H., Law C. & the Millennium Cohort Study Child Health Group. (2010) Does childcare influence socio-economic inequalities in unintentional injury? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 64: 161–166.

Background In recent decades the proportion of infants and young children being cared for in childcare has increased. Little is known about the impact that non-parental care has on childhood unintentional injury and whether this varies by socioeconomic group.

Methods Using data from a contemporary UK cohort of children at age 9 months (n = 18 114) and 3 years (n = 13 718), we used Poisson regression to explore the association between childcare type (parental, informal, formal) and the risk of unintentional injury, overall and by socio-economic group.

Results At age 9 months there was no overall association between childcare and injury. However, when stratifying the analyses, infants from higher socio-economic groups were less likely to be injured if they were cared for in formal childcare (compared with being cared for only by a parent), whereas those from lower social groups were more likely to be injured. At age 3 years informal childcare was associated with an increased risk of injury overall; in the stratified analyses this increased risk occurred only in less affluent groups. Formal childcare was no longer associated with injury at age 3 years in any strata.

Conclusion Previous findings have shown that childcare can have a positive influence on childhood injury; however, a recent UNICEF report highlighted that a lack of access to high-quality childcare could lead to a widening of inequalities. Our analyses indicate that childcare does have the potential to widen inequalities in injury; further research is required to understand why childcare has a differential impact on unintentional injury and how this might be prevented.

Weber M.A., Risdon R.A., Offiah A.C., Malone M. & Sebire N.J. (2009) Rib fractures identified at post-mortem examination in sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI). Forensic Science International. 189: 75–81.

Rib fractures may be associated with non-accidental injury (NAI) in infancy, but the possible significance of fresh rib fractures in relation to resuscitation remains undetermined. Consequently, it is important to detect and confirm the presence of rib fractures when performing a post-mortem examination, particularly in the context of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). At our centre, it has been local policy to perform routine radiological skeletal surveys and detailed post-mortem examination of the ribs in all SUDI autopsies. The aim of this study is to establish the characteristics of all rib fractures identified at autopsy in the setting of SUDI from a large series of cases examined at a single specialist centre.

As part of a larger review of paediatric post-mortem examinations performed at a single specialist institution over a 10-year period (1996–2005), all cases presenting as SUDI (aged 7–365 days) were identified and their anonymised records searched to identify all cases in which rib fractures were recorded.

Over the 10-year period, 546 post-mortem examinations were performed for the indication of SUDI, including 94 forensic autopsies. Rib fractures were identified in 24 cases (4%). 15 infants (3% of SUDI) demonstrated healing rib fractures, of which 10 infants (67%) showed additional features suggestive of NAI. The other 9 infants (2% of SUDI) demonstrated fresh rib fractures only with no surrounding tissue reaction histologically; in 7 (78%) of these there were no other injuries and the fresh fractures were interpreted to have been caused by resuscitation-related trauma. All of the resuscitation-related fractures were situated in the anterolateral chest, in contrast to NAI-associated fractures, which were located in the anterolateral and/or posterior chest. Anterior costochondral junction fractures were also seen in a minority of NAI-associated cases, but such fractures were not seen in apparent resuscitation-related cases. Compared to healing rib fractures, which were detected on skeletal survey in 93%, fresh rib fractures were only detected in 22% of skeletal surveys.

Rib fractures are uncommon in infancy and may indicate NAI, particularly when healed or healing, posterior or involving the costochondral junction. Fresh rib fractures may be missed on skeletal survey, but can be reliably detected at post-mortem examination following stripping of the pleura and detailed examination of each rib. Fresh anterolateral fractures, which may be multiple, contiguous and even bilateral, are highly likely to be related to resuscitation if there are no other associated injuries.

Youth Justice

(compiled by Michael Heaney)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Baker, K. (2010) More Harm than Good? The Language of Public Protection. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice. 49(1):42-53

Issues of risk and public protection are currently a critical, and politically sensitive, area of practice for probation and youth justice services in England and Wales. The language of public protection shapes practice in significant ways, yet this use of terminology is an issue which has received relatively little attention. This article examines the current debate between policy makers and independent inspectors concerning the use of the terms ‘harm’ and ‘serious harm’ to illustrate how linguistic confusion can hinder practice. The article concludes with suggestions for an alternative vocabulary that could bring greater clarity to risk assessment and risk management processes.

Gelsthorpe, L. and Worrall, A. (2010) Looking for Trouble: A Recent History of Girls, Young Women and Youth Justice. Youth Justice 9(3):209-223

This article summarises key issues in the historical conceptualisation of, and responses to, girls’ delinquency. Drawing on historical material, we tease out distinctive elements of the conception and perception of girls’ delinquency in England and Wales. We demonstrate some of the inherent and pervasive myths, muddles and misconceptions in their treatment and outline the implicit as well as the explicit reinforcement of gender stereotypes which have informed theory, policy and practice over time. Yet whilst ‘welfare’ perspectives have often brought trouble for girls in terms of excessive intervention, modern ‘justice’ perspectives have perhaps criminalised girls’ genuine welfare needs.

Pamment, N. and Ellis, T. (2010) A Retrograde Step: The Potential Impact of High Visibility Uniforms Within Youth Justice Reparation. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 49(1): 18-30

The Labour government has recently introduced uniforms for adult offenders undertaking community service as part of their community orders. There have also been calls within the youth justice arena to introduce uniforms to young offenders undertaking reparation. Through observation, interviews and questionnaires with young offenders and their supervising staff we argue that the introduction of uniforms will be counterproductive on a number of levels. In short, it would be a retrograde step. We conclude with a suggestion on how to increase the visibility of unpaid work by offenders within the community, without the negative impact of uniforms.

Sharpe, G. (2010) The Trouble with Girls Today: Professional Perspective on Young Women’s Offending. Youth Justice 9 (3): 254-269

Drawing on recent empirical research, this article discusses youth justice professional beliefs about the causes of young women’s offending, and examines whether ‘moral panic’ proclaiming that we are witnessing an explosion in female youth crime and disorder are reflective in contemporary youth justice discourse. I found distributing evidence that girls continually can be drawn into the youth justice system for welfare reasons – as a result of the criminalisation of domestic disputes or because of concerns about their sexual vulnerability. The widespread cultural belief that girls are getting worse received some support amongst youth justice practitioners and managers, although many professionals expressed confusion as to whether female youthful behaviour has deteriorated or whether girls are subject to more intensive and formal methods of governance than hitherto. The implications of these findings for the criminalisation of girls are discussed.


Brayford, J., Cowe, F. and Deering, J. (eds) (2010) What Else Works? Creative Work with Offenders. Willian Publishing, Cullompton

This book has developed out of a growing awareness amongst practitioners that centralised notions of what works and ‘one size fits all’ approaches to work with offenders and other groups is inevitably limited in its scope and effectiveness. This realisation reopens the door on ‘what works, with whom and in what circumstances’, i.e. the idea that successful intervention can come from a number of different approaches, linked to individual difference.

The book as a whole argues that it may be unhelpful to continually think of probation service users as ‘offenders’ and socially excluded people as ‘problems’ to be managed and treated and seeks to consider more creative alternatives to reduce both re-offending and social exclusion, for example in working separately with women, black and minority ethnic groups, local community-focussed projects, in education and nature and conservation programmes.

Buttoms, A. and Roberts, J.V. (Eds) (2010) Hearing the Victim: Adversarial justice, crime victims and the state. Willian Publishing, Cullomption

In recent years far more attention has been paid to victims of crime – both in terms of awareness of the effect of crime upon their lives, and in changes that have been made to the criminal justice system to improve their rights and treatment. This process seems set to continue, with legislative plans announced to ‘rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the victim’. This latest book in the Cambridge Criminal Justice Series brings together leading authorise in the field to review the role of the victim in the criminal justice system in the context of these developments.

Brookman, F., Maguire, M., Pierpoint, H. and Bennett, T. (eds) (2010)

Handbook on Crime. Willian Publishing, Cullompton

The Handbook on Crime is a comprehensive edited volume that contains analysis and explanation of the nature, extent, patterns and causes of over 40 different forms of crime, in each case drawing attention to key contemporary debates and social and criminal justice responses to them. It also challenges many popular and official conceptions of crime.

This book is one of the few criminological texts that takes as its starting point a range of specific types of criminal activity. It addresses not only ‘conventional’ offences such as shoplifting, burglary, robbery, and vehicle crime, but many other forms of criminal behaviour – often an amalgamation of different legal offences – which attract contemporary media, public and policy concern. These include crimes committed not only by individuals, but by organised criminal groups, corporations and governments. There are chapters on, for examples, gang violence, hate crime, elder abuse, animal abuse, cyber crime, identify theft, money-laundering, eco crimes, drug trafficking, human trafficking, genocide, and global terrorism. Many of these topics receive surprisingly little attention in the criminological literature.

Pakes, F. (2010) Comparative Criminal Justice. Willian Publishing, Cullompton

This book aims to meet the need for an accessible introductory text on comparative criminal justice, examining the ways different countries and jurisdictions deal with the main stages and elements in the criminal justice process, from policing through to sentencing. Examples are taken from all over the world, with a particular focus on Europe, and the UK, the United States and Australasia.

This fully updated and expanded new edition of Comparative Criminal Justice takes into account the considerable advances in comparative criminal justice research since the first edition in 2004. Each chapter has been thoroughly updated and in addition, there is a new chapter on establishing the rate of crime in a comparative context. The rate of development in international policing and international development has been such that there is now an individual chapter devoted to each; and throughout the book, the role of globalisation, changing both the local and the global in criminal justice arrangements, orientations and discourses, has now been given the prominence it deserves.


Northern Ireland Office (2009) Perceptions of Policing, Justice and Organised Crime: Quarterly Update to September 2009. NIO, Belfast.

This update presents the most recent statistics on the level of public confidence in policing and the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland as well as the perceived level of harm caused by organised crime. The data are drawn from the Northern Ireland Crime Survey (NICS) and are based on interviews conducted during the period October 2008 to September 2009.

The focus of this report is on specific results required to measure progress against Key Performance Indicators of the CSR 2007 Northern Ireland Office Public Service Agreement (PSA). In-year results (i.e. data based on the 12 months to June, September and October) are provisional and are subject to revision during the end-of-year validation procedures.

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and Youth Justice Agency (2010) Locked Up and Locked Out: Communication is the key. RCSLT and YJA: Belfast.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) held a conference (30.06.09) which focused on how to better deliver integrated services to meet the needs of young people in the justice system with communication difficulties. The conference brought together keynote speakers and professionals involved in the planning, provision and delivery of services for young offenders with communication difficulties. This conference report seeks to capture the key issues explored during the event and suggests a number of recommendations for improving service provision in Northern Ireland through the establishment of a speech, language and communication needs service.

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (2009) The Chance of a Lifetime: Preventing Early Conduct Problems and Preventing Crime.

A very high proportion of those who have the most serious conduct problems during childhood will go on to become involved in criminal activity. Effective help for parents and families to prevent and manage conduct problems is extremely good value for public money and should be offered routinely across the UK. Early onset is particularly likely to result in persistent difficulties. In addition to those with a recognisable disorder, much larger numbers display early conduct problems which, while below the threshold for a clinical diagnosis, still increase the likelihood of adverse outcomes in later life, including offending. These problems have many causes, but early family relationships and parenting style are particularly significant.

Most crime is committed by a relatively small group of prolific or chronic offenders who typically start offending at an early age. The prevalence of serious conduct problems during childhood is particularly high in this group. 80% of all criminal activity is attributable to people who had conduct problems in childhood and adolescence. This report examines the links between early conduct problems and subsequent offending. It makes the case for greatly increased investment in evidence-based programmes to reduce the prevalence and severity of conduct problems in childhood. Just 1% of the law and order budget would be sufficient to fund a comprehensive programme of pre-school support for 30% of all children born each year.

Forthcoming Events


Attachment and Care Planning in Children’s Services

Date: 10th June 2010

Organisers: BAAF (NI)

Venue: Queen’s University Belfast

This conference will explore planning and decision making for children who are or will be separated from their families.

Further Details:

Telephone: 028 9031 5494

Enjoying, Learning and Achieving in Foster Care

Date: 1st & 2nd October 2010

Organisers: The Fostering Network

Venue: La Mon Hotel and Country Club, Belfast

The Fostering Network’s annual conference is established as an essential event for everyone with an involvement in fostering. The conference is an opportunity for best practice and new ideas to be shared and workshops are one of the key ways that this is achieved.

This year’s conference, Enjoying, Learning and Achieving, will focus on improving educational outcomes for children and young people in foster care.

Further Details:


Telephone: Kellie Long 028 9070 5056