The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study

The Care Pathways and Outcomes is a longitudinal study that has been following all 374 children who were under five years old and in care in Northern Ireland on 31st March 2000. We want to find out where these children/young people end up living and compare how they are getting on in their different types of placement (such as foster care, kinship care, adoption, living with birth parents, etc). We also want to explore the levels of stability and placement breakdown that is happening, and to identify the reasons behind it. The study has entered its fourth phase "The teens and early adulthood" (2016-2019). In this critical phase, the young people are aged between 18 and 23 years old.  We are talking to the young people and their parents/carers.

In the previous phase of the study (2006-2010), ‘The Children’s Perspective’, we spoke to the children themselves (aged 9 to 14 years), as well as their parents and carers, to find out how they were getting on. The findings of this study have been published in a book format with the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) in May 2013, and are also available in a summary report.

The study was originally located in Queen’s University Belfast, but has moved to Ulster University where the study Principal Investigator, Dr Dominic McSherry, is now based.

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council

External Academic Collaborator: Dr Montserrat Fargas Malet, Queen’s University Belfast



McSherry, D., Fargas Malet, M., & Weatherall, K. (2013). Comparing long-term placements for young children in care. The Care Pathways and Outcomes Study - Northern Ireland. London: BAAF

Selected journal articles

McSherry, D., & Malet, M. F. (2018). The Extent of Stability and Relational Permanence Achieved for Young Children in Care in Northern Ireland. Children Australia43(2), 124-134.

McSherry, D., Fargas Malet, M., & Weatherall, K. (2018). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ): A Proxy Measure of Parenting Stress. The British Journal of Social Work.

McSherry, D., Fargas Malet, M., & Weatherall, K. (2016). Comparing long-term placements for young children in care: Does type of placement really matter? Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 56-66.

McSherry, D., Weatherall, K., Larkin, E., Fargas Malet, M., & Kelly, G. (2010).  Who goes where?  Young children’s pathways through care in Northern Ireland. Adoption & Fostering, 34(2), 23-37

Fargas, M., McSherry, D., Larkin, E., Kelly, G., Robinson, C., & Schubotz, D. (2010). Young children returning home from care: the birth parents’ perspectiveChild and Family Social Work, 15(1), 77-86.