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RA6a: Additional observations, Evidence of esteem

In recognition of its strong reputation, the department was granted independent School status by the University in 1997. The policy of recruiting and maintaining research-oriented, professionally qualified, practice-experienced staff of strong academic ability has paid dividends in the form of a high quality, high volume research and writing department. The stimulating research climate in the School ensures an active, creative staff group dedicated to and enthusiastic about the importance of research enquiry and intellectual curiosity. The result is a thriving School with strengths that allow the production of internationally recognised individuals. The School remains a lead player in the fields of socio-legal studies, child placement research, and theory and practice developments. It is poised to become a major centre for research into ‘contact’ (in the fields of adoption, foster care, divorce and separation).

Thoburn has been the keynote speaker at national conferences organised by BAAF, Family Rights Group, NSPCC and Barnados. Schofield has given keynote addresses to both BAAF (2000) and BASPCAN (2000). Howe has given keynote addresses to the annual conferences of the British Association of Play Therapists (1999), BAAF (1996), and a variety of voluntary and public agencies. Keene presented a public lecture to The British Psychological Society (1998). Research papers have been presented at international conferences by Sellick, Neil, Dickens, Thoburn, and Trinder. DoH sponsored training packs have been developed by Shemmings and Connolly, and Sellick (research-based audio-tapes on foster care outcomes).

International recognition: UEA’s close working relationship with UNICEF will be 10 years old in 2001. Research collaboration, training and study tours have been established through the UNICEF offices in Romania and Moldova with Sellick taking a lead role. Sellick is co-editor with Dr Alexiu (University of Timisoara) of the book Asistenta Sociale in Marea Britanie si Romania published in Romania by UNICEF (2000). On the basis of his research on foster care, Sellick is part of a UK delegation advising on child care development in Russia. Dickens has jointly researched, co-authored and presented papers with Catalin Serghi on Romanian child care issues. He has also acted as an advisor to the Palestinian government on children’s rights. Brandon has carried out original research comparing the concepts of significant harm in Romania and the UK. Thoburn is working with Ainsworth (Australia) and Maluccio (USA) on overviews of child care research in English language speaking countries, and has been involved in a research and training programme with the Shanghai Civil Affiars Bureau. Thoburn and Shemmings have been consultants to the Swedish government on evidence-based child care policies. The School has a scheme for visiting overseas scholars, professionals and government officials/civil servants to study research, policy and practice in the UK. The School has welcomed colleagues from 12 different countries. In the case of visiting professionals and officials, we have appointed a member of staff as Director of Studies who arranges a programme of tutorials, visits and general guidance. Lengths of stay range from a few weeks to 3 months. Several members of staff have had their books and papers translated and published within the assessment period (Howe: 2 books, a chapter and a journal paper into Spanish, one book into Serbo-Croat, and a chapter in a Norwegian text; Thoburn: one book into Japanese and a chapter in Romanian; Sellick: one book into Romanian; Shemmings: one book into Japanese). Howe et als book Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support is published by a leading American publisher (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates) as well as Macmillan UK.

The School’s MA in International Child Welfare attracts a wide range and number of experienced and senior child welfare practitioners, managers, planners, and academics from across the world, including Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Students are required to carry out original research in their home country using a comparative perspective. The findings feed into the School’s growing international research knowledge base and inform policy and practice in the student’s home country. Two recent graduates of the degree have become high ranking government officials responsible for developing child welfare policies and practices in their respective countries. The importance of this programme has been recognised by the award of 9 Nuffield Commonwealth studentships.

Advisory work on policy and practice: Thoburn has advised and contributed extensively to policy and practice debates including the new DoH guidelines on assessment, membership of Lord Justice Thorpe’s advisory committee on interdisciplinary training for those working in the family justice system, external membership for the Treasury/DFEE/DH ‘cross-cutting’ review of Sure Start, authorship of a commissioned briefing paper on international comparisons for the Prime Minister’s review of adoption, workshop leadership on adoption for the Family Policy Studies Centre, membership of DH researchers’ advisory group for research overviews (Adoption Now, and Children Now), addressing the national ADSS annual conference and, with Schofield, authorship of a pamphlet commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research on evidence on how children exercise their rights in child protection. Keene has advised the Welsh Office on its drug and alcohol policy: Forward Together. She has also given seminars and advisory papers to DEMOS, the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour, the National Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and the National Drugs Prevention Initiative. Sellick has undertaken a ‘best value’ review on foster care for Westminster SSD. Thoburn, Sellick and Schofield have joined colleagues at the University of York to advise the DETR on the selection of foster care ‘Beacon’ authorities. Shemmings has been on the DH advisory group on developing training materials for the new Assessment Framework and the DH/NCB advisory group on developing training materials for supervisors managing child abuse cases. Through ‘Making Research Count’ the majority of faculty share in advising LAs and voluntary agencies on their ‘best value’ policies and evidence-based practice. Ward has provided advice and consultation to a number of agencies on the provision of residential care (NCH, Mulberry Bush, SSDs).

Journal Editorships: After 16 years as editor of the Probation Journal, Stone retired from the role in 1997. Davies (until 1998) and more recently McDonald have edited Social Work Monographs which have provided a vehicle for graduate student research and analysis from many of the UK’s leading Schools of Social Work over the last 18 years. To date, the series has published 170 monographs. In 1994 Howe, with support from Davies, recognised the need for a child and family social work journal. Blackwell Science was approached and since 1996 has published the international peer-reviewed journal Child and Family Social Work to which Howe was apppointed as and remains the founding Editor. Dickens is the journal’s Book Review Editor. Howe is also an associate editor for the psychology journal Attachment and Human Development and an editorial board member of the journal Irish Social Work. Thoburn is on the Editorial Board of the new Journal of Social Work. Thoburn and Howe are on the editorial board of the Hong Kong Journal of Social Work. Ward is editor of Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic and Support Organisations; and was a guest editor of special issues of Training for Therapeutic Practice (1996) and Social Work Education (1998). Ward is also an editorial board member of Social Work Education.

Organisation of conferences: Schofield, in her role as Deputy Director of the Centre for Research on the Child and Family, organises an annual conference in which members of the School’s academic staff present their research findings to a national audience. A national and local Making Research Count research dissemination conference is organised by the School.

ESRC recognition: The School of Social Work has a Mode A status for PhD students. In 2000 it also was granted eligibility for CASE studentships.

Impact on users, policy and practice: Thoburn and Brandon's work on significant harm has made important contributions to the debate on the refocussing of child and family services and thresholds for intervention. Thoburn has also been influential in helping the government and adoption agencies review placement practice involving black children; she has contributed a chapter on adoption for the Oxford Textbook on Psychiatry; and she is involved in the training of judges through the Judicial Studies Board (adoption) and their influential journal JSB Review. The work of Schofield and Howe is referenced in the new DoH Assessment Framework Practice Guides (children in need and their families). Neil and Thoburn are recognised as national experts on the subject of post-adoption contact based on the emerging findings of their contact study. Howe’s analysis of adoption outcome research coupled with his work on classifying, assessing and treating adopted children with problem behaviours has produced a number of influential research papers and two successful books (Adopters on Adoption 1996 and Patterns of Adoption 1998). Howe’s leadership of the project to develop a practice and assessment model using a developmental and attachment perspective has resulted in a theory-practice model for social workers working with child maltreatment, family support and children’s placements for which there is great demand by local authority SSDs, voluntary agencies and GALROs. With Feast, Howe’s research on Adoption, Search and Reunion, has relevance to government policy and adult adopted people contemplating or currently experiencing a reunion with a birth relative.


Boswell and Wedge’s Department of Health study (The Parenting Role of Imprisoned Fathers, 1999) is set to influence government policy on how best to maintain appropriate relationships between imprisoned fathers and their children. Stone’s three substantial legal and practice ‘Companion’ guidebooks for probation officers and other professionals in the criminal justice system are based on research and exposition of criminal law. The books are highly valued and extensively used by practitioners. In recognition of his expertise, Stone also works half time for the Parole Board. Thoburn and Howe are used regularly as expert witnesses in child and family court cases and as individual case consultants (for social workers, psychiatrists, solicitors, barristers, guardians ad litem) in which there are issues around attachment, contact and the interpretation of child development and placement outcome research. Connolly and Shemmings’ book Understanding Assessment in Family Support and Child Protection: A Directory of Training Material and Key Texts is based on work funded by the Department of Health. Shemmings and Connolly have also produced a Training Pack and Reader In On the Act: Involving Children and Young People in Family Support and Child Protection, again work funded by the Department of Health. Shemmings is employed widely and regularly as a trainer in the practice of involving family members in family support and child protection conferences.

Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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