Evaluation of implementation of an evidence-informed framework for return home practice Evidence about what works in supporting children to safely return home from care

Boy kicking footballSignificant numbers of children who return home from care experience abuse and neglect. The NSPCC developed the Taking Care guidance to help local authority social workers decide whether or not it is safe to return a child home. The framework informs and supports work with children and their families throughout the reunification process and following a child's return home.

We commissioned the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University to undertake an independent evaluation of the Taking Care framework. The report includes findings from interviews with parents, children, social workers and managers. It also includes recommendations for strategic leads implementing the framework. This is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: Georgia Hyde-Dryden, Lisa Holmes, Doug Lawson and Jenny Blackmore
Published: 2015

Overall, both parents and professionals were positive about the Taking Care practice framework.

From the perspective of parents

  • Parents said that assessments using the practice framework felt different to their previous experiences. They considered it a better process as it was more in depth. Parents considered themselves and their children to have an active rather than passive role.
  • Parents valued feeling listened to and felt that both their views, and their children’s views, were taken into account. They were particularly positive about being able to express their opinions, ask questions, and clarify the interpretation given to events or facts before they were included in their child’s social care file.
  • The majority of parents generally understood what changes they needed to make. Parental agreements, where used, were also viewed positively overall. The goals made sense, were challenging but on the whole felt achievable, and the information was easy to understand.
  • Once children returned home, parents valued the ongoing support. But some were keen to get back to normal family life without the presence of professionals.
  • Where the decision was made that a child could not return home, parents mostly described the decision as being handled sensitively and being given a thorough explanation for the decision. 

From the perspective of professionals

  • Professionals said the practice framework provided a clear structure for assessing whether a child could return home safely and for supporting the family through the process of reunification. It was viewed as being robust and increased social workers’ confidence in their decision making.
  • Social workers found it helped to establish patterns, identify relevant information and encouraged them to take a ‘step back’ from the case.
  • Professionals also found it helped them to assess risk and identify appropriate support for families.
  • Social workers found it was not as time-consuming to use the framework as they’d expected.
  • Professionals reported that overall it worked well with children of different ages and different legal status and with different groups of parents.
  • Local authorities valued the practice framework as an approach and wanted to continue using it. 

The findings suggest that overall the Taking Care practice framework has had a positive impact on reunification practice. It has done this by strengthening the assessment process and helping parents, children and young people become more active participants within it.

Executive summary 5
Introduction 12
Background 13
Aim of the evaluation and overarching research questions 24
Evaluation methodology 24
The findings 31
Conclusions and recommendations 51
References 59
Appendices 62

Please cite as: Hyde-Dryden, G. et al (2015) Taking Care: practice framework for reunification: evaluation report. [Loughborough]. Loughborough University. Centre for Child and Family Research.

Impact and evidence series

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Related resources

Taking Care evaluation

Findings from an analysis of the case files of children who were returned home from care using the NSPCC’s Taking Care approach. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
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