The Care Careers of Younger Looked After Children: Findings from the Multiple Placements Project

Wendy Cousins, Marina Monteith, Emma Larkin, Andrew Percy

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This publication reports initial findings from a Northern Irish study which examined the extent of stability in the care careers of 388 younger looked after children (under 5 years old) and the factors which may influence this. Chapter one provides an overview of the policy background to this piece of research both in the UK generally and Northern Ireland in particular. Chapter two outlines the theoretical perspectives on which the study draws including primarily the concept of care careers, the life course analysis approach and social ecology theory. This section outlines the literature on these topics before moving on to discuss concepts of attachment, stability and care-planning. Chapter three describes the research methodology and following chapters in the report present findings from data collected from the Social Services administrative system (SOSCARE) and the children’s case files in 2000 and again two years later in 2002. Chapter four presents data on the care careers of the children in the study. This chapter begins by examining key dimensions of the children’s care careers such as the length of time in and the types of placements in which the children are living. It then examines movements out of the care system and finally attempts to operationalise placement instability and placement permanency. In particular, it focuses attention on the children’s placement histories over the two year ‘window’ between the census periods. Chapter five discusses findings on the child and family background. Chapter six discusses the social work processes concerning the children’s care careers.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
Number of pages99
ISBN (Print)1900725150
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Oct 2003


  • State Care
  • Substitute Care
  • Children in Northern Ireland
  • Foster Care and Adoption
  • Early Childhood.


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