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BASW calls for evidence on the role of the social worker in adoption

BASW is calling for evidence from young people who have been adopted, parents, social workers, managers, family justice professionals, policymakers and academics to underpin a year-long research study on the role of the social worker in adoption.

BASW has commissioned social work academics Professor Brid Featherstone of the University of Huddersfield and Anna Gupta of the Royal Holloway, University of London to conduct an enquiry into current adoption practice. The enquiry will include one-day events across the UK, focus groups, individual interviews and written submissions.

The key purpose of the UK-wide enquiry will be to examine the role of the social worker in adoption, with a particular focus on how ethical issues and human rights legislation are understood and inform practice, and how these relate to pursuing good long-term outcomes for children and their families.

Commenting on the call for evidence, BASW Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen said: “The time is right for such an enquiry, ultimately this is about ensuring the best outcomes and experiences for children in care as well as their families, not just today, but for generations to come.

“We want to hear from all those involved in adoption right across the board before coming to any judgement or conclusions. This is an example of the social work profession using its voice and leading with our own ethics, principles and evidence base. We aim to explore the issues around adoption through these values.”

The enquiry will be guided by a steering group consisting of adoptive parents, birth parents, adult adoptees and senior law professionals as well as social work practitioners and academics.

Click HERE to find out more about the enquiry.

To submit evidence, please email

Steering Group Biographies

Dr Ruth Allen, BASW UK Chief Executive

PhD, PGDip Applied Systemic Theory, CCETSW Approved Social Worker Training, MA Social Work (distinction), BA (Hons) 

Prior to her role as BASW Chief Executive Dr Allen served as the Director of Social Work at South West London and St Georges’ Mental Health NHS Trust (2007-2016), as the Head of Social Care for Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust (2004 – 2007) and as Integration Manager for Tower Hamlets and the local Health Trust (2002 – 2004). Her career to date demonstrates values-based leadership in social work and social care with a commitment to transforming social work practice at both a national and local level. 

Dr Allen’s ongoing dedication to social work practice has led her to co-chair the Practice Advisory Group to the Chief Social Worker for Adults (for the continuation of the work of the mental health and adults faculties of The College of Social Work), to chair the Social Care Strategic Network for Mental Health and to be the co-developer and facilitator for the Excellence in Social Work Leadership programme, alongside being a recognised author in social work and a practice development consultant.

Dr Allen holds a Master's degree in Social Work, with distinction, from the University of Sussex and a Professional Doctorate in Education, also awarded by the University of Sussex. She is also actively involved in current social work research through her research fellowship with St George’s University. 

Professor Brid Featherstone

Professor of Social Work, School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield. PhD, BA (Hons), MA (Social and Community Work Studies), CQSW, Diploma in Applied Social Studies. 

Professor Featherstone worked as a social worker and team manager in the areas of youth offending and child protection for ten years before becoming an academic. She has been a respite foster carer since 2003.

Her research has been funded by the ESRC, Nuffield Foundation, local authorities and a wide range of charities. Her research interests include: families’ perspectives on child protection and family support services, engaging fathers and the challenges for services and the impact of deprivation on children’s chances of becoming looked after.  Her publications include eleven books, forty five peer-reviewed articles and twenty five chapters.

She has been an adviser to a wide range of charities and local authorities in the UK and Ireland on child protection and family support. She has been invited to lecture in a range of countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Spain and New Zealand.

Professor Featherstone was confirmed as a Fellow of the Academic of Social Sciences in 2014 in recognition of her esteemed contribution to the social sciences. 

Anna Gupta

MA in Child Protection Studies, BSW (distinction), BA (Hons).

Anna Gupta is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she teaches on the MSc in Social Work and post-qualifying programmes. She is a registered social worker and throughout her academic career has maintained a link to practice in the family courts, initially as a Children’s Guardian, and then as an ISW/ expert witness. Anna has undertaken research and published articles on a range of subjects linked to child care and protection practice, including work in the family courts, poverty and social work, and practice with Black and minority ethnic children and families. 

Dr Lauren Devine

Dr Lauren Devine is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the West of England, Bristol and is project lead for the ESRC transformative funded project Rethinking Child Protection Strategy.  Her forthcoming book The limits of State Power & Private Rights: Exploring Child Protection & Safeguarding Referrals & Assessments will be published by Routledge in 2016.  Lauren was called to the Bar in 1998.  She subsequently completed an M.Phil. in child protection & adoption law and policy at the University of Bristol before completing an M.A. (research methods) and a Ph.D. at the University of Birmingham.  Lauren researches and writes on questions of child protection, safeguarding and social welfare and has a particular interest in adoption. 

Janice McGhee

Janice McGhee is Senior Lecturer in Social Work in the School of Social and Political Science, The University of Edinburgh. She has substantial social work practice experience within social services for children and adults. Her primary teaching responsibilities are in relation to social work law and child development. Her longstanding research interests relate to child welfare policy and law and child protection. She has written extensively on the Scottish children's hearings system. Current research interests are focused on the use of administrative data for research in child welfare and protection and she leads the social work strand of the Administrative Data Research Centre 

Together with a longstanding collaborator she continues to explore practitioner-parent relations from social science and philosophical perspectives. Recent publications explore the contribution of longitudinal research in considering how best to meet the needs of children for care and protection, McGhee, J., Mitchell, F., Daniel, B., and Taylor, J. (2015), Taking a Long View in Child Welfare: How Can We Evaluate Intervention and Child Wellbeing Over Time? Child Abuse Rev., 24: 95–106 doi: 10.1002/car.2268; and an edited collection considers new directions in safeguarding children, Waterhouse, L. and McGhee, J. (2015) Challenging Child Protection. New Directions in Safeguarding Children, London: Jessica Kingsley

Allan Norman

Allan Norman, MA (distinction), BSocSc, RSW, Independent Social Worker and non-practicing Solicitor was formerly Principal Solicitor and Social Worker at Birmingham Law Centre, and then in his own practice, Celtic Knot. He qualified as a social worker 25 years ago, and as a solicitor 10 years later. Celtic Knot is now his independent social work practice, from where he specialises in the interface of social work and the law. He writes and blogs as Celtic Knot, and has written and lectured widely in this area. He is an Associate at the University of Birmingham. Allan is a member of BASWs Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee. He is currently writing a book on Human Rights due to be published in 2016.

Maggie Mellon - Chair

Maggie Mellon, MSc, CQSW, Dip SW, Dip Child Protection, is a registered social worker with extensive experience in Scotland and in England mainly in children and family work. Maggie works independently, as an expert witness, case reviewer, and in supporting parents and families to have a say, and to defend their best interests. She writes and presents widely on social and criminal justice, and is actively involved in criminal justice reform initiatives particularly on women and young people.  Maggie is a member of the editorial board of Scottish Justice Matters, Maggie held senior and practitioner posts in Edinburgh and London since qualifying in 1977and is a Maggie was vice-chair of BASW April 2014-16, and chaired the Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee and remains a member. Maggie was formerly Director of Services with Children 1st in Scotland (2005-9), during which time she promoted and extended the use of family group conferencing in Scotland and Head of Public Policy for Children Action in Scotland (1999-2004).