Disrupting the Routes between Care and Custody

4 February 2019 10:17
Blue sky and barbed wire

Girls living in foster care or children’s homes and involved in the youth justice system, and women in prison who were previously in care, will be asked to shed light on the routes between care and custody.

A new 27-month project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Lancaster University, will attempt to fill knowledge gaps which are perceived as an obstacle to effective policy and practice.

'Disrupting the Routes between Care and Custody: Learning from Girls and Women in the Care and Criminal Justice Systems', which starts this month, will explore the experiences of females who have been in care as children and who are also involved with the youth/criminal justice system.

The Laming Review, ‘In Care, Out of Trouble’ (2016) highlighted the lack of research on females in care in the youth justice system, and recommended a particular focus on their needs.

“A better understanding of this is long overdue,” says Principal Investigator Dr Claire Fitzpatrick, from Lancaster University. “Our research aims to give a voice to girls in care who are involved in the youth justice system, and imprisoned women who have been in care, whilst addressing the lack of evidence on this neglected topic”.

Director of Justice at the Nuffield Foundation Rob Street said: “The Nuffield Foundation is pleased to support this important study led by Dr Fitzpatrick which will improve our understanding of women and girls who have been in care and come into contact with the criminal justice system. By developing the evidence base on the negative trajectories between care and custody for this vulnerable group, this study should inform future policy and practice.”

A targeted literature review will examine messages from research and knowledge gaps.

Semi-structured interviews with girls currently in care, and imprisoned women who have care experience, will be used to explore their experiences of the care and justice systems and their views on what needs to change.

Additionally, interviews with professionals, including care workers and police, will explore their perspectives and recommendations for reform.

Documentary analysis will enable a focus on how the care system currently responds to girls’ challenging behaviour.

Importantly, the project will also consider how quantitative data collection on this topic could be improved, as well as identifying future opportunities for data linkage.

This project will be led by Dr Fitzpatrick, working with Co-Investigators Dr Jo Staines (University of Bristol) and Dr Julie Shaw (Liverpool John Moores University), with input from expert advisors Professor Brian Francis (Lancaster University) and Dr Jude Towers (Liverpool John Moores University). 

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