Girls and women with experience of care and the criminal justice system

This project investigates the experiences and perceptions of girls and women in care or with care experience who are involved in the youth and criminal justice systems.

Young people – especially girls – with experience of care are over-represented in these systems, and more evidence is needed to improve our understanding of how negative trajectories from care to custody might be interrupted.

The core of the study will involve in-depth interviews with:

  • Girls currently in different types of care who are in contact with local Youth Offending Teams as alleged offenders

  • Women in prison who were previously in care

  • Practitioners from children’s services, the police, youth justice, the  judiciary, probation and prisons.

Interviews will focus on aspects of the care system that facilitate or obstruct diversion and desistance from criminal activity. The research team will seek to identify potential positive changes to policy and practice.

Additional elements of the project include:

  • Analysis of the number of girls in different forms of care who come into contact with the youth justice system and the reasons for this

  • Documentary analysis of a sample of children’s home policy protocols around staff responses to challenging behaviour, as well as a sample of case files to investigate how these protocols operate in practice

  • A targeted literature review

  • A data scoping exercise aimed at identifying how administrative data collection could be improved to strengthen the quantitative evidence base on the links between care and the criminal justice system.

The project builds on our portfolio of work on children and young people in care, including a current study on incarcerated children in care, and closely reflects the interests of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.

Project details


Dr Claire Fitzpatrick, Lancaster University

Dr Julie Shaw, Liverpool John Moores University

Dr Jo Staines, University of Bristol

Dr Katie Hunter, Lancaster University


Grant amount and duration
£202,487 over 27 months

February 2019 – April 2021



Exploring the pathways between care and custody for girls and women: a literature review, Claire Fitzpatrick, Katie Hunter, Jo Staines and Julie Shaw, Lancaster University (2019): 

Full report > 

Summary report >