International study into children in care

A survey of the developed world’s most vulnerable children is being launched by the University of East Anglia, England.

The 14-month study will examine policy and systems in comparable countries including the UK, USA, New Zealand and Sweden. The aim is to improve the lot of children in care around the world.

Child welfare expert Prof June Thoburn has been awarded an Emeritus Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust to fund the research. Adoption as a route out of care will be one of the areas scrutinised.

“The aim is to take a modest step towards improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children by providing international data on ‘what works’ in other countries tackling similar problems,” she said.

Prof Thoburn’s research will culminate in a glossary of terms that have different meanings in different countries, and guidance on using international statistics, taking variations in demography, society and political systems into account. In the USA, for example, children are often adopted by relatives and so no longer appear in the ‘in care’ statistics. In other countries it is rare for relatives to apply for legal adoption when looking after their kin.

Prof Thoburn is recognised internationally as an expert on child welfare services. She has been awarded four major Department of Health grants and published extensively on family support, child protection, foster care and adoption.

She joined UEA in 1979 as Lecturer in Social Work and was Dean of the School of Social Work from 1998-2002. She was a founding director of the Centre for Research on the Child and Family and in 2002 was awarded the CBE for services to social work.

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