Working with families of children placed away from home

This project was a cross-national analysis of how four different European countries work with the families of looked-after children after they have been taken into care. It examined both theory and practice in this area of children's services in England, Denmark, the Netherlands and France.

Practitioners in all four counties described working with families of children in care as both a challenging and neglected area of practice. And the research team identified a fundamental ambivalence about working with parents, usually resulting from the potential risk to the child of family involvement.

An important difference is our expectation of the role of social workers, which is different in England to the other three countries included in the study. Children’s services in France, the Netherlands and Denmark tend to be more multi-disciplinary than those in England - routinely including specialist professions, such as psychologists and family therapists, which are exceptional for English social care teams.

There are also some interesting conceptual differences, such as the Danish framing of child-family contact as ‘being together’ (samvær), which emphasises parents’ involvement in children’s everyday lives and worlds. One recommendation from the project is that the English notion of ‘contact’ should expand to include discussion of how and why parents and other family members are involved in children’s lives at different times.

Project details



Dr Janet Boddy, University of Sussex

Funding Programme:

Children and Families

Amount and duration:


June 2011 - August 2012



Beyond contact: work with families of children placed away from home in four European countries by Janet Boddy, June Statham, Inge Danielsen, Esther Geurts, Hélène Join-Lambert and Sévèrine Euillet

Download the briefing paper (PDF)

Download the full report on the University of Sussex website (PDF)