Dates: Aug 2017-June 2020
Research Team: Prof Marian Brandon
Funder: Nuffield Foundation

In the wake of a “national care crisis” in England, an increasing number of parents return to the family court as repeat respondents in care proceedings and lose successive children from their care. Despite considerable progress in understanding the trends and patterns of mothers’ (re)appearances in care proceedings, knowledge of fathers and of parents’ family relationships in recurrent care proceedings remains very limited. Fathers have legal party status in approximately 70% of s.31 proceedings each year, this is a sizeable population, about whom we know very little. This study aims to address this gap by building on two recently completed ground-breaking studies also funded by the Nuffield Foundation; firstly of fathers’ experiences of child protection (Brandon, Philip and Clifton, 2017) and secondly: mothers in recurrent care proceedings (Broadhurst, Mason, Bedston et al 2017). This produces an exciting collaboration between a team from the CRCF project managed by Georgia Philip and led at UEA by Marian Brandon and at Lancaster University by Karen Broadhurst.

FINDINGS

The analysis of the Cafcass data has produced ground-breaking insights including the first estimate of fathers in recurrent proceedings. We have uncovered gender and life-course dynamics of recurrent parents and produced important insights about the significance of couple relationships for understanding recurrence. For example, we have found that unlike recurrent mothers, recurrent fathers are most likely to return to court with the same partner. Our early findings suggest a need for whole-family, gender-sensitive services with recurrent parents.