Children in Public Care: The failings of settings

by Joanne Carrighar-Kearns in Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Children in Public Care: The failings of settings
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I work with children in public care and recognise the serious failings of their care settings to provide learning opportunities and support.

by Joanne Carrighar-Kearns in Manchester, England, United Kingdom

PhD in Social Work: Improving the outcomes for children living in public care 

About Me

As a mum to three girls, aged 12 years, two years and one year, I feel very lucky, but having previously worked in a school with children living in foster homes and children's residential homes I also feel incredibly guilty that my girls have had everything they could ever need from me and lots of great experiences, both now and in the future, when other children simply do not. Many children who live in children's homes or foster families will have to leave their home at the age of 18, and will simply be expected to just get on with their life and move forwards. They will be referred to now as 'care leavers', with their support network sometimes almost non existent, and often a lot of uncertainty ahead of them.

About my Study

The unintentional yet inattentive and thoughtless failings of some care services, including children's residential homes and foster family households to provide learning opportunities, emotional, financial- and social skills, and social gatherings to children who live in public care can lead to isolation, feeling lonely and feeling unable to deal with the outside world. 

Things like going to meet friends, going shopping, trying in clothes in shops, and going for food or drink in a cafe or restaurant are often rare experiences for care leavers, and indeed for children under 18 who still live in such settings, according to the children I worked with. Such opportunities were not always encouraged, sometimes not ever suggested at all, and many of these children talked to me about their skills deficits, i.e. never having gone for a warm drink in a cafe before, or shopping for clothes for example.

Whilst it is evident that such children have additional skills, strength and resilience when compared to children not living in public care, there are clearly opportunities that need to be afforded to them during their time in their setting.

What can I do about it?

As a mature student with a Master's Degree in Social Work, I feel that I can create a paradigm shift and the change needed at a much greater level if I wholly research this area and find out from children who do live in children's residential homes and foster families what opportunities that they need access to and why. This will mean that I can compile a series of information to give to care providers detailing what sort of things need to be offered, encouraged or denied realistically, and the reasons why. As well as asking the children I am working with, I will also consult with the following: -

  • Care providers
  • Schools
  • External support agencies 
  • Mental health services 
  • Social workers
  • Employers
  • Disability services 
  • Friends & families
  • Any additional resources 

A PhD is a professional research degree with a specific focus, and which aims to create positive change. For me, this would mean I can create a document that tells children's residential homes and foster carers exactly what opportunities they need to be offering and actively encouraging (or discouraging) and why, from the time that their child(ren) enters their care until the day they leave. This document will need to be approved and passed by the social work regulatory governing body Social Work England (formerly HCPC) after which point I can then deliver it as training to all local authorities in England.

Why do I need your help?

It is not necessarily me that needs your help, but the children I work with. For me to study this PhD I need to pay a £4500 tuition fees each year, for three years, as I have no funding attached. PhDs typically do not come with funding as the researcher is expected to fund it himself. For many students this is not a problem, but for myself I simply cannot do it, as I have to pay for private childcare for my two young children in order for me to commit to this full time study. For those of you familiar with the high cost of childcare, I trust that you can relate to this potential massive dealbraker. I have therefore chosen to appeal to all readers here for your support in the hope that just a small donation can make a huge difference to the lives of children who may be feeling lonely and neglected, and ultimately remove the barriers and the potential long term negative impact that they may face when leaving care.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£5 or more

Acknowledgement and thanks

Any single person or business that supports me will be listed in my final dissemination l should they wish to be included. This means that your name(s) will be published in my work at the very beginning and your support will be acknowledged publicly as you have allowed me to produce this very important piece of work.

£5 or more

Bi-annual progress reports

Twice per year I will produce a progress report which details where I am up to, what I have produced and why. This is important not only both for myself and for my supervisors to keep track or my progress, but also for any supporters who have committed to helping me with my research. I will contact you to ask if you would like to receive a copy of my report each time I produce one.

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