Permanently Progressing? – Building secure futures for children in Scotland

On Wednesday 19th September 2018, the University of Stirling will host an exciting one day event at Stirling Court Hotel to present the key findings from the first stage of the Permanently Progressing? study. These will contribute to policy, practice and research in Scotland, across the UK and internationally. The day is aimed at practitioners, decision makers, policy makers, researchers/academics and adoptive parents/carers. Scotland’s Poet Laureate, Jackie Kay, author of ‘The Adoption Papers’, and alumnus of the University of Stirling will also contribute to the day.

You can find about more about the event here.

But what exactly is the project about? 

Permanently Progressing? – Building secure futures for children in Scotland is a ground breaking research study run jointly by the University of Stirling and the University of York, in collaboration with the Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland. The first stage of the research will be completed this year, as part of a planned longitudinal study to follow a cohort of children in Scotland as they grow up.

Every year, several thousand children in Scotland become ‘looked after’ at home or ‘looked after and accommodated’ in foster care, residential placements or with relatives due to concerns about their welfare. While many return to their parents, for some the decision is taken to permanently place them with adoptive parents, foster carers or kinship carers. Since 2014, the Permanently Progressing? study has been following a large cohort (1836) of young children in Scotland who became ‘looked after’ or ‘looked after and accommodated’ in 2012-13, when they were five or under. The study draws on quantitative and qualitative data from Children Looked After Statistics (CLAS), interviews with 160 decision makers, questionnaires completed by adoptive parents/carers and professionals on a sub-sample of 643 children, and interviews with 20 adoptive parents/carers and 10 children. It considers:

  • How are decisions made?
  • What promotes feelings of belonging?
  • How do children fare in relation to their relationships, health, and educational progress?

The team is led by Dr Helen Whincup (PI) and includes Dr Andressa GaddaDr Margaret GrantJade HooperDr Marina ShapiraDr Sarah Wilson working with Professor Nina Biehal(co-PI University of York) and Dr Linda Cusworth (University of Lancaster).

What’s new with the project?

The research team have now analysed the CLAS (Children Looked After Statistics) data from all 32 Local Authorities over four years (2012-2016) for children who became looked after or looked after and accommodated when they were five and under (1836 children). This has enabled us to track children’s pathways over four years. We are in the process of enabling variables from CLAS data to be linked with variables from SCRA (Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration) data. This will be the first time that the two data sets have been linked, and is ground breaking.

They are currently analysing the surveys of adoptive families, prospective adopters, kinship and foster carers and social workers for a sub- sample of 463 (thank you to everyone who completed a questionnaire).

Data from interviews and focus groups with 160 decision makers across Scotland have also now been analysed thematically to explore what influences decision making for children. Again, thank you to all participants.

Finally, the team have interviewed 20 adoptive parents and kinship or permanent foster carers and 10 children across Scotland. The children have enjoyed the ‘play and talk’ sessions with Helen or Maggie and have been able to say what helps with feelings of belonging. The adults told the team that they value the opportunity to talk about their experiences of the permanence, processes.  The interviews have provided valuable insights into their experiences, which we will be reflected(anonymously) in the final report. Literature Reviews on Outcomes for accommodated children and the Impact of substance misuse on children are currently being completed.

Want to find out more?


Twitter: @PermProg

Contact: Dr Maggie Grant –