International Parent Advocacy Network

Part 1 Building a Parent-led Movement to Transform Child Welfare: The History and the Future (Lessons from New York)

David Tobis, Ph.D., child welfare activist and author of From Pariahs to Partners

Sabra Jackson, Parent advocate, activist and Parent Engagement Specialist at the Administration for Children’s Services who oversees the Parent Advisory Council

David Tobis will speak about the origin and range of child welfare parent advocacy and activism in New York City. He will describe how the example of New York City has spread to other countries and the role of the International Parent Advocacy Network to support the parent advocacy movement. 

Sabra Jackson will speak about her personal experience with child welfare and her early role and current activities in reforming New York City’s child welfare system.  

Part 2: Make a start, make a difference, and make it happen (Lessons from South Wales)

Fiona MacLeod has worked in diverse roles and positions within child and family social services for over 30 years.  Whilst working as an Independent Reviewing Officer, she has been leading on a project to develop parent advocacy (PAN) in the West Glamorgan region over the last year.

Fiona will present an outline of the PAN project in West Glamorgan which aims to develop parent to parent advocacy in the region, with the aim of supporting and empowering parents through child protection and court processes, discussing key developments, challenges, opportunities and aspirations.

Sana Malik is a founding member of PAN, (together with Fiona), and is an established parent representative on the PAN steering group. She works as a social care professional.  Naomi Hanmer is a newer parent representative to the group and works as a legal professional. 

Sana and Naomi will speak of their personal experiences of the child welfare system, and their views on how parent advocacy can bring about the changes to build parent confidence and influence, bridge the gap in relationships with the statutory services, and ensure children are safely looked after wherever possible at home with their parents and families. 

We will present a voice recording of the experiences of a number of the parent representatives on the steering group, their views on their experiences of children’s social care, and what has been most significant in their journey. 

Time: 4.30pm – 6:00pm

Date: 4th May 2021

Black and Minority Ethnic carers

There is a dearth of research with Black and Minority Ethnic carers.  Little is known about the experiences of this group, and their access to and take up of formal and informal support.

This PhD study aimed to bridge this gap by interviewing Black and Minority Ethnic carers, in Wales and England.  Through qualitative in-depth interviews, it was possible to explore their experiences of formal and informal support, and support they found beneficial to them and their family.  

Although the research was with parent carers of children with life-limiting conditions, the findings are relevant across social care (both for adult and children’s services), in terms of providing support for Black and Minority Ethnic carers. Useful insights are provided into the experiences of this group.  

The presentation focuses on the contrast between previously held beliefs regarding the availability of family and community support for this group of families, and the accounts of carers themselves. Topics covered in the interviews included Black and Minority Ethnic carers describing their caring experiences, support from family and friends, the role of religion, as well as their experiences of services from the NHS, hospices, social care and education. 

Presenter: Dr Wahida Kent, Lecturer in Social Work, University of South Wales.

Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Date: 12th May 2021

Working in partnership with families through participative meetings

There are several models for involving family members in decision making where there are concerns about a child, rather than key decisions being made in a professionally-led case conference.

These models include family group conferences, the model most widely used in the UK. This webinar includes an overview of international research evidence about shared-decision-making family meetings and a presentation on how two English local authorities have recently expanded the use of such meetings.

The research overview includes the findings of a systematic review of evidence on outcomes and a realist review focused on how meetings can enable families to fully participate in decision-making. The practice presentation covers an example of how family group conferencing and participative child protection conferences have replaced traditional case conferences.

Speakers: Jonathan Scourfield and Lorna Stabler (CASCADE, Cardiff University) and Kathy Nuza, Primary Lead, Bi Borough Family Group Conference Service (Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster)

Time: 11am – 12pm

Date: 26th May 2021

The NSPCC Reunification Practice Framework: an evidence-informed framework to make safe permanence decisions for children in care.

The session offers an overview of the Reunification Practice Framework, a comprehensive framework that brings together research insights, practical guidance and tools to support practitioners to gather robust evidence and make structured professional judgements around safe permanency decisions. 

The Framework represents an opportunity to address research findings, that many children who return home from care experience further abuse and neglect or placement breakdown (at times leading to a return to care) (DfE, 2013; Farmer, 2011; Wade, 2011).  The presentation highlights how strong assessment, planning and support for children and families can alter the probability of a child returning to care after a reunification decision has been made. 

The effectiveness of the Framework has been evaluated in 2016, with a study showing that almost all children who had been returned home under the programme remained at home six months later, and that child protection concerns about many of the children had declined (Gill, C.  2016 Taking Care evaluation: the return home and short-term outcomes for looked after children. London: NSPCC). The Framework has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a resource to improve placement stability.

The session includes the opportunity for questions from the audience.

Presented by: Chiara Marin, Implementation Manager, NSPCC and Anna Holland, Consultant Social Worker, NSPCC

Time: 1.30 – 2.30pm

Date: 13th May 2021

Sharing key messages from the evaluation of the ‘Gwella’ intervention

‘Gwella’ was a successful intervention developed and run by Barnardo’s Cymru across North and South Wales between 2017 and 2020.

The intervention was designed to support children aged between 5 and 11 years old who were involved with social services and had experienced trauma and abuse, providing a trauma-informed system of supportive professionals around them, and improving their relationships with their primary carers.

In total, 31 children and their parents and carers were supported through the project. This session shares key messages from the evaluation of the project, which had a strong focus on documenting the experiences of all those involved – which included the Gwella team, parents and carers, children, consultant specialists, and external professionals from social care and education. Key messages centre around what the Gwella intervention was and how it can be delivered effectively, as well as sharing what the outcomes were for children and families and how and why these were understood to have occurred.  

Presented by: Dr Sophie Hallett, Cardiff University
For further information, visit the project page.

Out-of-home care-experienced children’s educational careers: what can be learnt…

Out-of-home care-experienced children’s educational careers: what can be learnt from studies of their educational pathways?

It is well known that children with out-of-home care (OHC) experience perform poorly within school and in the educational system. However, we know less about their educational careers over time, and how their educational pathways compare to their same-aged peers.

Based on a 50-year follow up of around 12 000 children born in Stockholm, out of which nearly 8% had been placed in OHC care at some point before their 13th birthday, this presentation describes a series of studies of OHC experienced children’s educational careers over the life course.

In particular, it focuses on what implications the results from these studies may have for the educational and child welfare system responsible for the educational needs of OHC children of today.

Presented by:

Dr Hilma Forsman,

Department of Social Work

Stockholm University

Getting our voices heard

This webinar is the fifth in our Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning (DRILL) series.

It shares a recent study led by Queen’s University, Belfast and partner organisations. ‘Getting Our Voices Heard’ looked at different approaches taken by people with learning disabilities and their organisations, to influence the specific policy and procedural area of adult safeguarding.

It was recognised that disabled people themselves having a direct influence on these policies was imperative. The project investigated what works in different contexts across all four Nations in the UK, including identification of successful examples of how people with learning disabilities and relevant Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have influenced adult safeguarding policy.

Findings show that some improvements have been made on the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in policy conversations, but that there remains considerable work to be done to achieve meaningful inclusion. Particularly, that policy consultations are often not adequately carried out to allow people with learning disabilities to have real input. Suggested improvements include allowing more time for responses, the need for better quality easy read documents that outline what is contained in the proposed law or policy, whilst engaging in person with people with learning disabilities. The importance of sharing personal stories and lived experience, engaging with the media, taking part in research projects and being members of policy technical groups were all recommended.

The study led to co-produced recommendations and action plans on the best approaches to influencing adult safeguarding policy and its implementation at national and organisational levels.

Presented by:

Dr Lorna Montgomery
Senior Lecturer in Social Work
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
Queen’s University Belfast

Mutual Benefits – The Potential of Disabled People as Foster Carers

There is a huge shortage of foster carers in England, and the University of Worcester has undertaken a research project to find out why Disabled people are excluded from fostering. 

This webinar presents findings which include a short video illuminating the key ethical and pragmatic issues in this neglected area of equal opportunities. 

The university worked alongside Shaping Our Lives Disabled people’s and service user network and the Foster Care Co-operative, and initially covered four fostering services across statutory, private and charitable sectors. The project was co-produced and followed an ’Action Research’ model, changes in policy and practice being made as issues came to light. 

One agency dropped out of the project after a takeover, the new management not supporting the project. The project was funded by DRILL (Disabled Research into Independent Living and Learning) and the Big Lottery and was undertaken between 2018 and 2020. 

Many barriers were found to exist regarding Disabled people becoming foster carers, even though many Disabled people have their own children and have a wide range of life skills. The barriers included discriminatory attitudes held by professionals, a lack of clarity about medical fitness, a lack of role models and uncertainty around benefits eligibility. 

It was very challenging to get many fostering agencies and Disabled people’s organisations interested in this project, which we saw as a ‘win-win’ opportunity – Disabled people will be able to step into employment, children needing care will have a greater choice of placement and the recruitment gap will be greatly reduced. 

The research team made progress across the four pilot sites and via wider media exposure, managing to interview twelve Disabled foster carers who are living proof that Disabled people can successfully foster. Alison said: 

… as a Disabled foster carer, I would have never expected to be matched with a child with complex needs. I expected to maybe have to wait a while for a placement and to only take easy placements maybe, but my agency haven’t been like that at all, which is again a credit to them ‘ 

Jon said: 

‘I have had two children living with me since they were very young and they just see disabled people as people. This is what inclusion brings-natural equality.’ 

It is hoped that webinars such as this ExChange initiative will help disseminate the project’s findings across the UK . Highlighting success stories such as Alison’s and Jon’s should encourage both fostering agencies and Disabled people to embrace the great potential in Disabled people as foster carers. The University of Worcester is seeking new funding to continue the project, has been commissioned by national fostering body, CoramBAAF, to write a practice guide on Disabled foster carers and plans to offer training for foster agencies in this neglected area. 

Presenters: Dr Peter Unwin, University of Worcester and Becki Meakin, Shaping Our Lives

Social workers in hospitals

Local authorities in Wales often locate teams of social workers in hospitals to carry out discharge planning for older people who will require ongoing care and support in order to leave hospital.

This webinar presents findings from an ethnographic study of one such team. It will set out how the bureaucratic nature of the routine tasks the hospital social workers perform, the pressure from hospital management and local authority senior managers to expedite patient discharges with speed, and the demands of maintaining a working space alongside the hierarchy of hospital professionals create a uniquely challenging environment for social work practice.

Despite these challenges, during the fieldwork it was possible to see the key social work values of human rights, social justice and empowerment enacted through the social workers’ practices, though with some limitations. The webinar will conclude with an argument that the skills and commitment of hospital social workers could be harnessed in an expanded role to help reduce readmissions and support people with long-term health conditions to adjust to their circumstances and develop health-protective ways of living.

Presentation by: Dr Dan Burrows, Cardiff University

Ethnic, socioeconomic, and intersectional inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

There has been a growing awareness of ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in child protection, specifically in the UK but also internationally.

However, there is often an assumption that the two inequalities are either equivalent, requiring only one practice and policy response, or totally disparate, requiring unconnected policy and practice responses. This webinar will present the findings from a recent intersectional analysis of neighbourhood intervention rates in England, which shows that different ethnic populations have very different deprivation-related gradients in intervention. 

Presented by:

Dr Calum Webb
Research Associate
Department of Sociological Studies
University of Sheffield

Read Dr Calum Webb’s presentation