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Courts, care proceedings and outcomes uncertainty: The challenges of achieving and assessing “good outcomes” for children after child protection proceedings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-381
Number of pages8
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number4
DateAccepted/In press - 1 Apr 2019
DatePublished (current) - 31 Oct 2019


The professed aim of any social welfare or legal intervention in family life is often to bring about “better outcomes for the children.” But there is considerable ambiguity about “outcomes,” and the term is far too often used in far too simplistic a way. This paper draws on empirical research into the outcomes of care proceedings for a randomly selected sample of 616 children in England and Wales, about half starting proceedings in 2009–2010 and the others in 2014–2015. The paper considers the challenges of achieving and assessing “good outcomes” for the children. Outcomes are complex and fluid for all children, whatever the court order. One has to assess the progress of the children in the light of their individual needs and in the context of “normal” child development, and in terms of the legal provisions and policy expectations. A core paradox is that some of the most uncertain outcomes are for children who remain with or return to their parents; yet law and policy require that first consideration is given to this option. Greater transparency about the uncertainty of outcomes is a necessary step towards better understanding the risks and potential benefits of care proceedings

    Research areas

  • children in care system, family reunification, kinship care, outcomes in child welfare intervention, care proceedings, family court decisions

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    Licence: CC BY


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