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We are delighted to announce that the University of Oxford’s Rees Centre, at the Department of Education is partnering with Become, the national charity for children in care and young care leavers to define a new measurement of success for care leavers

Organised by researchers Dr Nikki Luke and Dr Áine Kelly at the Rees Centre (Department of Education), this mixed-methods study will investigate what ‘success’ means to a range of stakeholders. Central to the work will be gaining the perspective of care leavers and those just about to leave care. There will be four phases of work, each developed with a care-experienced design group, named ‘Future of Care’,  who will co-produce research materials and outputs. The research is particularly relevant following the recent publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, in which five ambitious ‘missions’ were suggested to bring outcomes for care leavers in line with the rest of the population.

Kudzai Zimowa, a young care leaver in the design group of the project, says:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the Future of Care design group. It has been great working with other care-experienced young people to help define what success looks like for care leavers. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to work on a project that can make a material difference in the lives of many young people. Too often the narrative on what success means for care leavers is controlled by others. Become have done a great job in creating a collaborative space where care-experienced people can all share their perspective on what success looks like and hopefully rewrite the narrative.” 

Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO at Become, the national charity for children in care and young care leavers, says:

“If we are to ensure care leavers are offered the right support and opportunities to be happy and live fulfilling lives, we must know what ‘success’ really means to them.

Too often we make assumptions about what matters to young people without asking or listening to them. And so we focus on and measure certain outcomes without truly understanding what it means to that young person themselves to make a “successful” transition into adulthood.

This research will help us to address the gap of knowledge that exists in understanding the hopes and ambitions of young people in and leaving care. And it’s by hearing directly from young people that we can set meaningful measures for “success” going forward.”

Leon Feinstein, Professor of Education and Children’s Social Care and Director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, says:

“The concept of a ‘successful’ transition from childhood to adulthood is largely defined by traditional, formal routes to ‘success’ such as education and employment. Parents, carers, educators, policymakers, and other professionals all make assumptions about what a successful adult is and develop policies and practices to fit. This means that outcomes or success factors are at best assumed and imposed on young people, particularly for those in and/or leaving care.

Even where there are defined official measures of success for care leavers, the data is far from consistent and comprehensive. The government statistics that do exist only provide a partial picture of care leavers’ lives. They focus on objective measures and professional assessments i.e., whether the local authority is in touch with care leavers, if their accommodation is suitable, and if they are in education, employment, or training. 

That’s why this research partnership is so important to help us understand how young people perceive their aspirations, personal achievements, and attainments. At the end of the 3-year project, we will have measures based on young people in care and young care leavers’ own criteria for success which feels right, timely and much needed.”

 

More information on the project can be found here.

A new research study conducted by both The Department of Education, University of Oxford, and Barnardos Australia has revealed that children who were adopted had significantly better life outcomes when compared with children that remained in foster care, particularly when it comes to education and employment.

Professor Leon Feinstein, Director of the Rees Centre, Department of Education, at University of Oxford said,

“we are delighted to announce our partnership with Barnardos Australia on the book launch of a major research study on adoption, entitled ‘Outcomes of Open Adoption from Care’. The project, funded by Barnardos (Australia), with research undertaken by Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward and Helen Trivedi at the Rees Centre (Oxford), presents new and vivid findings concerning the extreme vulnerability of children placed for adoption from care, the impact and durability of face-to-face post adoption contact and adult outcomes of adoptees.”

Launched 6th April by Barnardos, this is the first longitudinal study of open adoption undertaken in Australia, examining the long-term outcomes of 210 children adopted through Barnardos between 1987 and 2013. The children in the study were permanently removed from their birth parents and placed in foster care due to severe abuse and neglect. By maintaining “openness” through contact with their birth family, these adopted children formed a healthy sense of identity and experienced greater stability and belonging, for life, compared to those in the unstable foster care system until the age of 18.

Key findings of the study include:

  • 63% of adult adoptees completed Year 12 or higher, compared with 42% of adults who grew up in foster care.
  • 62% of adult adoptees were engaged in full-time employment, education or training compared with 34% of adults who grew up in foster care.

These findings have important implications for government support and funding of open adoption in Australia. Currently only NSW and ACT have legislated for open adoption and Barnardos is the largest non-government provider of open adoptions from care Barnardos Australia CEO Deirdre Cheers said;

“This is a children’s rights issue. All children have the right to an education and to grow up in a stable and supportive environment. There are over 45,000 children are in foster care in Australia but only 171 children were adopted from foster care last year. Currently adults working in child protection are the making the decision as to whether a child can be adopted. Barnardos world-first research will serve to inform our state governments about the urgent need to bring about open adoption reform in order to improve life outcomes for the children and young people currently in foster care.”

This launch video features two of the authors of the study and two adult adoptees speaking about their experiences of foster care and open adoption.

Watch Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward discuss research findings on ‘Contact, Relationships, and Outcomes’ of open adoption in Australia

Read the open access book: ‘Outcomes of Open Adoptions from Care’

Read the story in the Sydney Morning Herald

Findings Report and Draft Guidelines Published

The full peer reviewed research report and draft guidelines, grounded in systematic research with 8 local authority areas and corresponding health trusts in England and Wales, are published today.

The research identified consensus among frontline practitioners and parents about what constitutes best practice when local authorities issue care proceedings at birth – but also uncovered numerous challenges, ranging from discontinuities, delays and resource constraints to risk-averse practice, shortfalls in a family-inclusive practice, insufficient professional specialism and poor inter-agency collaboration. The need for a more consistent sensitive approach to practice, underpinned by understandings of trauma is emphasised. The need for more training, supervision and support for professionals working in this emotionally challenging area of practice is also recommended.

The draft guidelines, grounded in the research include a series of aspirational statements for each stage of the parents’ journey and provide examples of how these statements can be translated into best practice. They consider how to overcome challenges at both a strategic level and in frontline practice. They also include examples of innovations from practice drawn from across England and Wales.

Between now and August 2022, the participating local authorities and NHS trusts are working with the team to test the feasibility of the guidelines. The intention is for the guidelines to be used as a basis for developing local area action plans and locality specific guidelines, within the context of national guidance. Findings from this feasibility study will inform a final version of the guidelines, which will be published later in 2022.

Accompanying reviews led by the Oxford Team also published 24th February

Two additional reviews undertaken as part of the research and led by the Rees Centre are also published today.

The first, a review of guidance in eight participating local authorities covers professional practice concerning parent/infant separation within the first few days of life. Whilst the second, an evidence review of families’ experiences of perinatal loss, identifies key messages that may be applicable to practice surrounding separation at birth. Both reports provide important background and context when considering improving practices surrounding separation at birth.

Read more about Born into Care on the project page. and on the University of Oxford website.

Ecorys, the Rees Centre at University of Oxford, and Ipsos MORI have been appointed by the Department for Education to explore the potential of a seminal study to independently research the needs, experiences and outcomes for children and young people leaving care on Adoption Orders (AOs) and Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs).

There is currently limited research around how these two routes to permanence affect children’s long-term outcomes as they progress into adolescence and adulthood. We hope to follow the lives of young people aged 12-21 growing up in adoption and special guardianship families.

The purpose is to help:

  • Assess the long-term outcomes for children growing up in adoption and special guardianship families;
  • Support improved outcomes for children by enhancing our understanding of what influences the support needs and outcomes for adoptive families and special guardianship families;
  • Understand the role of key stakeholders in supporting outcomes for previously looked after children, and the impact this has on their outcomes; and
  • Support improved decision making by LAs and courts on permanency options for children who cannot return home to live with their birth parents.

Over the next six months, we will conduct a feasibility study to explore how best to approach families and encourage involvement in a longitudinal study. We will consult with stakeholders from the adoption, Special Guardianship sector and families to help us design the research and make plans to pilot the next stage.

The final reporting is scheduled for 2028.

More information on the project can be found on the study’s project page.

Hannah is a Project Administrator for the Rees Centre. She provides administrative support to a variety of projects, focussing on Data and Voice to Improve Children’s Lives project, and acts as PA to our Director.

She has experience managing a supplemental education centre, where she enjoyed teaching high level math and writing. Hannah also worked as a Discharge Coordinator at the John Radcliffe Hospital and as a Research Assistant in the Language and Literacy Lab at Dalhousie University.

Abdul Karim has completed a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering and Computational Medicine (Imperial College London), a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Queen Mary University of London), and Master of Science in the Philosophy of Science and Economics (The London School of Economics).

He has delivered lectures on the Philosophy of Human Nature and the History of Metaethics at the University of Cambridge and for Health Education East Midlands. This, in addition to the current positions he holds as a Hospital Doctor and Health Policy and Management Advisor at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Abdul Karim’s current areas of interest include the biological definition of psychological states relevant to the learning environment, and the influence of language on the variable interpretation of a particular social context. For the latter of which he has published primary research.

Another is the appraisal and deployment of physiological measurement devices in learning environments as a means of quantitatively evaluating psychological states. Such research areas hold promise in enhancing the questionnaire-based evidences of contemporary theories in education, such as those regarding motivation, self-determination and engagement. This will to contribute to the evidence-based public policy optimisation in education and social care.

 

Publications

Ismail, A.K. 2017. A Cross Sectional Study to Explore the Effect of the Linguistic Origin and Evolution of a Language on Patient Interpretation of Haematological Cancers. Advances in Biological Research. 11 (4): 225-232.

Ismail, A.K. 2017. The Origin of the Arabic Medical Term for Cancer. Advances in Biological Research. 11 (4): 198-201.

Ismail, A.K. 2018. The Impact of da Vinci’s Anatomical Drawings and Calculations on Foundation of Orthopaedics. Advances in Biological Research. 12 (1): 26-30.

Speaker

Dr Priya Tah, Research Officer at the Rees Centre, University of Oxford

Outline

This webinar will explore the journey to attachment and trauma awareness of three primary and two special schools taking part in the Timpson Programme. We will discuss important changes in policy and practice, adaptation of behaviour policies and the positive impact on young people, stemming from the attachment and trauma training carried out at each school. We hope you can join us!

To access the event, please click through to the Microsoft Teams link.

RELATED RESEARCH

This webinar series is linked to our research programme, The Alex Timpson Attachment and Trauma Programme in Schools.

Questions? 

Please contact timpsonprogramme@education.ox.ac.uk