Permanently Progressing? Phase One: Building secure futures for children in Scotland

Project Dates

November 2014 - December 2018


British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) and anonymous benefactor

Project Summary

Statistics from 2018 (Scottish Government 2019) show that 14,738 children were looked after in Scotland (at 31st July 2018). Many children who become looked after away from home will return to their parents, but for some the decision is taken to permanently place them with kinship carers, long-term foster carers or adoptive parents.

“Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland” is the first study in Scotland to investigate decision making, permanence, progress, outcomes and belonging for all children who became ‘looked after’ in 2012-2013 when they were aged five and under (n=1,836). Of those 1,836 children, 1,355 were looked after away from home, and 481 were looked after at home.

Phase One ran from 2014-2018 and was designed to be the first phase in a longitudinal study, following the cohort of 1,836 children who became looked after in 2012-13 into adolescence and beyond.  Phase Two will start in December 2020, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and

The study included analysis of data from questionnaires completed by social workers, carers or adoptive parents, interviews and focus groups with decision-makers, interviews with carers and adoptive parents, and ‘play and talk’ sessions with children.


Phase One of the study had five strands and there is a report, policy briefing and summary for each strand, together with an information sheet for children, with an accompanying audio recording.

Pathways to Permanence for children who become looked after in Scotland: This analysed the CLAS data for 1836 children over four years. The report presents detailed information on their routes to permanence and the timescales.

Final Report  -  Summary  -  Policy Briefing

Linking two administrative data sets about looked after children: Testing feasibility and enhancing understanding: Data on children is collected by the Scottish Government (CLAS data) and by Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA). For the first time this study linked CLAS and SCRA data on 1000 children. This reports describes the process and the findings.

Final Report  -  Summary  -  Policy Briefing

Children looked after away from home aged five and under in Scotland: experiences, pathways and outcomes: This presents findings from detailed questionnaires (433 social workers and 166 carers) alongside the CLAS data. It provide valuable information about the circumstances of children and their families before they were accommodated, their pathways, current status and current wellbeing.

Final Report  -  Summary  -  Policy Briefing

Decision making for children: 160 decision makers across Scotland (including social workers, members of Children’s Hearings and Reporters to the Children’s Hearing) were interviewed about their perspectives on decision making.

Final Report  -  Summary  -  Policy Briefing

Perspectives on kinship care, foster care and adoption: the voices of children, carers and adoptive parents: 20 carers and adoptive parents were interviewed, and 10 children aged 3-9 years participated in ‘play and talk’ about their experiences.

Final Report  -  Summary  -  Policy Briefing

Information sheet for children

Information Sheet  -  Audio recording 

Latest News

Funding for Phase Two of the study – “Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children: Middle childhood” – has recently been awarded by the Nuffield Foundation and an anonymous benefactor.  Phase Two will start in December 2020 and run until 2024.  For more details, see here.

Research Team

Phase One involved a team from the Universities of Stirling (Dr Helen Whincup, PI; Dr Margaret Grant, Research Fellow; Jade Hooper, Research Assistant, Dr Alison Hennessy, Lecturer), York (Professor Nina Biehal, Co-PI) and Lancaster (Dr Linda Cusworth, Co-investigator), in collaboration with Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland (AFA).


For further information contact Linda Cusworth (

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