‘Everyday Parenting with Care Experience’ a new study exploring the everyday parenting practices of parents with a background of care.

By Dr Shirley Lewis and Dr Katie Ellis

This study aims to understand the everyday parenting practices and experiences of parents with a background of care. Previous research with care experienced university students found that a number of them aspired to become parents and had high aspirations for the kind of parent that they would be. One participant, Lydia*, claimed: “I think my calling in life is to be a mum and to be the best mum that I could ever be.”

Research has already highlighted the importance of exploring the perspectives of parents with care experience and illustrates that parents who have a background of care are more likely to have their own children placed in care or adopted1,2. Our project aims to add to this important research by understanding the perspectives of those parents who go on to parent without needing additional support. We hope that this study will share some of the positive experiences of care experienced parenting.

Our research has been strongly influenced by parents who have a care background and we have a steering group which includes parents who are care experienced. The late care experienced campaigner, Ian Dickson, was involved in the early stages of the research design. He explained:

‘My daughter never knew care. None of my grandkids will either. I am altogether ordinary and unremarkable – just like the  overwhelming majority of care experienced people’.

Ian Dickson (OFSTED inspector, father, grandad, care leaver)

We hope that the study will collect the voices of those, like Ian, who go on to parent their own children and are usually missing from the statistics that are often used to describe care leaver ‘outcomes’. This will allow us to broaden and diversify the evidence base around what it means to be a parent who is care experienced.

What does the study involve?

Parents are being recruited through social media and networks of parents who are care experienced. We are undertaking interviews with 30 parents who can be at any stage in their parenting journey. Participants are also being invited to provide an artefact that represents a stand out moment in their parenting journey.

The interviews will be followed by an online survey, shared with a wider audience of care experienced people. The survey will be based on key themes taken from the interview findings and will aim to reach as many parent voices as possible.

Towards the end of the study, we will be holding an online exhibition to display the anonymised artefacts provided by participants alongside quotes which show why these represent stand out moments in their parenting. We hope that this exhibition, alongside other planned dissemination activities including an animation, will help to highlight the voices of parents who are care experienced to positively impact change in policy and practice.

The study is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Dr Katie Ellis, Senior Lecturer in Child Welfare at the University of Sheffield. Katie’s research advocates for children and young people living outside of the family environment. She recently completed a study on the experiences of children who transitioned from being in care to university which was influential in changing university policy.

*Please note, Lydia’s real name has been anonymised to protect her identity.

Image by wayhomestudio on Freepik

1Roberts, L. (2021). The Children of Looked After Children Outcomes, Experiences and Ensuring Meaningful Support to Young Parents In and Leaving Care., S.l.]: POLICY PRESS.

2Roberts, L., et al. (2017). “Care-leavers and their children placed for adoption.” Children and Youth Services Review 79: 355-361.

You may also be interested in these related blogs previously featured in Exchange: Family and Community.

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Challenging stigma, discrimination & poor outcomes for young parents in & leaving care

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