Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research


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Dr Derek Kirton

Reader in Social Policy and Social Work, Director of Learning & Teaching

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Room 111
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Cornwallis North East
Canterbury , Kent, CT2 7NF


I am a Reader in Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. See the rest of the Social Policy team.

I have worked at the University of Kent since 1994. I have a background in child and family social work and have retained this interest in my teaching and research.

While contributing more broadly to social policy and social care teaching within the School, I convene two modules focused on issues of childhood and child welfare.

The first, Childhood, Society and Children’s Rights, addresses the way in which “childhood” has varied through history and continues to do so across cultures and social divisions. A second module, The Care and Protection of Children, focuses more directly on child welfare concerns, such as abuse and neglect, children in state care, adoption and disability.

My research interests range across the field of child welfare and include youth justice, but are particularly focused on adoption and foster care, about which I am often consulted by the media and professionals working in these fields. I have acted as principal investigator on research projects for national and local government departments and third sector organisations.

In relation to adoption, I have written widely on the controversial topics of “transracial” and international adoption, often regarded as beset by “political correctness” which is damaging to the life chances of children.

Regarding foster care, I have contributed particularly to debates on the “professionalization” of fostering as it has shifted from being seen largely as an extension of family life towards a “job” for which foster carers are paid, again raising controversies such as the relationships between “love and money”.

Finally, I have been involved in research on the lifelong impact of growing up in care and, in particular, the identity needs of those who have graduated from state care. I am the author of Child Social Work Policy and Practice, Sage (2009).


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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

    Kirton, Derek (2009) Child Social Work Policy & Practice. Sage Publications, 240 pp. ISBN 9781412920551.


    This book offers an authoritative overview of child care policy and practice in the UK. It covers assessment and family support services, understanding child maltreatment and protection, the care of looked after children, including the contribution of adoption, foster and residential care, services for those leaving care and barriers facing disabled children and their families."Child Care Policy and Practice" reflects the complexity and contested nature of children's needs, rights and interests and relationships between family and state. It analyses relevant debates and research and highlights practice issues and dilemmas. Readers are also directed to sources of further information on topics they may wish to explore in more depth. At the end of each chapter, there is guidance for further reading, resources for practice and questions for discussion. The book is aimed at social work practitioners and students, both qualifying and post-qualifying, at allied professionals working with children and families and at undergraduate students in Childhood Studies or Social Policy.

    Goddard, Jim and Feast, Julia and Kirton, Derek (2007) A Childhood on Paper: Accessing the Child-care Files of Former Looked After Children in the UK. Bradford University Press, United Kingdom, 71 pp. ISBN 9781851432479.

    Kirton, Derek (2000) Race, Ethnicity and Adoption. Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 173 pp. ISBN 9780335200023.


    This important study provides a unique and comprehensive analysis of research into the development of adoption policy and practice regarding black and minority ethnic children in the care of local authorities...I found this book intellectually stimulating and often provocative - it does not make comfortable reading but in the final analysis the case for retaining a commitment to placing children in families which reflect their ethnicity is strongly made??i??i??' - Felicity Collier, the Director of British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering. What are the needs of adopted minority ethnic children? To what extent can white families meet these needs? Should the emphasis on ethnic matching of children and families in adoption be relaxed? This book reviews the long running and often fierce controversy surrounding the adoption of black and minority ethnic children, either transracially into white families or into matched 'same race' placements. Through analysis of research and the writings of protagonists, the core concepts - namely the nature and salience of racial/ethnic identity, cultural heritage and dealing with racism - are explored and located within broader debates on 'race' and the family. The history of the controversy is set out in terms of the competing paradigms offered by liberalism and black radicalism, and more recent 'post-structuralist' influences. The author argues the need to see adoption (and especially that of black children) as inherently political and contested. While broadly supporting the case for 'same race' adoption, it is suggested that this must rest on acknowledgement of, and engagement with, social and psychological complexities, rather than their suppression beneath doctrinaire formulae. ??i??'Race', Ethnicity and Adoption??i?? sets the issues in the wider context of a multiracial society and its politics, and will be of particular interest to social workers and child care professionals, but will also appeal more widely to students of sociology, and social and public policy.


    Kirton, Derek (2013) What is work? Insights from the evolution of state foster care. Work Employment & Society, 27 (4). pp. 658-673. ISSN 0950-0170.


    This article focuses on state foster care as a case study in the (re)configuration and negotiation of boundaries between work and non-work. Foster care can be seen as occupying a liminal position between the domains of ‘work’ and ‘family’, requiring management of the tensions presumed to exist between competing value systems. Through a review of research and policy developments, the relevant boundary issues are contextualized and explored, drawing examples from areas such as remuneration, taxation and benefits, employment status, work-life balance and the labour process. It is argued that while foster care shares the hybridity and ensuing tensions of care work more generally, the spatial and temporal integration of work and family and the high level of state regulation give them a particular intensity. In turn, this offers great potential for the study of work/non-work boundaries. Possible research avenues are set out

    Kirton, Derek (2013) 'Kinship by design' in England: Reconfiguring adoption from Blair to the coalition. Child and Family Social Work, 18 (1). pp. 97-106. ISSN 1356-7500.


    Using Ellen Herman's concept of 'kinship by design' (KBD), this paper analyses recent efforts to reform adoption in England, arguing that they represent an attempt to curtail the powers of adoption professionals and their established practices of assessing and responding to risk. Examining policy contexts and relevant research, the paper looks at various facets of contemporary KBD in England as they relate to adoptable children, the treatment of adopters, matching, support and systemic governance of adoption within a mixed economy. From this analysis, it is suggested that the evidence base for many of the reforms is limited and that in important respects represents a 'manufactured crisis' used to justify radical changes, which, in turn, pose significant risks to wider policy and practice in child welfare.

    Barn, Ravinder and Kirton, Derek (2012) Transracial adoption in Britain: Politics, ideology and reality. Adoption and Fostering, 36 (3-4). pp. 25-37. ISSN 0308-5759.


    Transracial adoptions by white parents are situated at the intersections of family and public policy. Debates on racial integration are juxtaposed with child rights and the private sphere of the family. In Britain, the practices of transracial adoption and 'racial matching' continue to invite fierce debate and discussion. Several factors, including the ongoing disproportionate representation of minority ethnic children in the public care system, the 'unavailability' of suitable minority ethnic adoptive parents, concerns about adoptees' racial/cultural identity and the 'suitability' of white parents to raise racially competent children, form the backdrop for such debates. For the last decade or so, political attention has been focused on permanence for children in care and adoption in particular. Within these wider debates, the allegedly low adoption rates of minority ethnic children, the 'delay' in finding suitable adoptive families, the 'rejection' of suitable white adoptive couples, and 'ethnic matching' are presented as some of the key concerns. Ravinder Barn and Derek Kirton seek to unravel the evidence base around transracial adoption and 'racial matching' in the symbolic representational battle being fought in the 'best interests' of minority ethnic children.

    Kirton, Derek and Thomas, Cliff (2011) A suitable case?: Implementing Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care in an English local authority. Adoption and Fostering, 35 (2). pp. 5-17. ISSN 0308-5759.


    This article by Derek Kirton and Cliff Thomas draws from a local evaluation of a multidimensional treatment foster care (MTFC) programme in England, focusing particularly on issues of implementation. These include experiences of working with the Oregon Social Learning model on which MTFC is based, its theory, philosophy and practices. The article also considers the translation of this model into a UK context and the associated questions of adaptation and fidelity. The challenges of multidisciplinary teamwork and interagency collaboration within MTFC are explored, along with the latter's place within wider child welfare provision. Particular challenges highlighted are those of transitions into and from MTFC and the role of children's social workers. Albeit from a small-scale study and with inevitable variation in outcomes, it was found that MTFC achieved significant gains for a number of young people with complex needs and often troubled histories. This, in turn, raises questions about how far its theory and practice could or should be extended within foster care provision.

    Kirton, Derek and Feast, J Goddard, Julia and Goddard, Jim (2010) The Use of Discretion in a ‘Cinderella’ Service: Data Protection and Access to Child-Care Files for Post-Care Adults. British Journal of Social Work, 41 (5). ISSN 0045-3102.


    This paper focuses on policy implementation and, in particular, the workings of ‘street-level bureaucracy’ in a small, marginalised area of welfare provision, namely post-care adults seeking access to their care records. The work arises from research mapping UK service provision in this area, via questionnaires and interviews with key actors in local authorities and voluntary organisations. The study was prompted by widespread but largely anecdotal evidence that practices and service provision for those seeking to access their care records varied enormously. While post-care adults may seek access to records for reasons similar to those of adopted adults (curiosity, information on birth family, medical information, care histories and experiences, search and reunion), there is a lack of comparable legal framework and service provision, with reliance instead on the 1998 Data Protection Act (DPA). The intersection of data protection and (child) welfare gives rise to a number of important tensions that are explored, such as those surrounding ‘ownership’ of files and their content, between rights to information and (paternalistic) welfare considerations, and whether the handling of requests should constitute an administrative or a social work task. Finally, we consider the findings, their wider contexts and implications for legal reform and policy change.

    Goddard, Jim and Feast, Julia and Kirton, Derek (2008) A Childhood on Paper: managing access to child care files by post-care adults. Adoption and Fostering, 32 (2). pp. 50-62. ISSN 03085759.


    Although the potential importance of care file information for those formerly in care has long been recognised, little is known about requests for access to care records, whether in terms of scale or how requests are dealt with. To address this gap, a survey was carried out in two stages during 2004 and 2005. The first stage was a postal questionnaire to local authorities in the UK (with 81 responses received) and a small number of voluntary organisations. This was followed by 40 telephone interviews with key local authority and voluntary sector actors dealing with access to records requests. Areas of interest within the study included policy and practice in relation to the retention, storage and retrieval of files; the handling of requests, including by whom; the provision of services (e.g. counselling and intermediary services); and the impact of the Data Protection Act 1998 on the handling of access requests. Two overarching and related themes emerged from the study. First, policy, practice and service provision vary enormously between agencies, creating a ‘post-code lottery’ for post-care adults. Second, such provision is often poor in comparison with that offered to adopted adults, thereby raising the question of whether the current legal and policy framework for access to care records is adequate.

    Kirton, Derek and Beecham, Jennifer and Ogilvie, Kate (2007) Gaining satisfaction? An exploration of foster-carers' attitudes to payment. British Journal of Social Work, 37 (7). pp. 1205-1224. ISSN 0045-3102.


    The payment of foster-carers has long been controversial, reflecting both philosophical debates as to whether fostering should be a voluntaristic or professional activity and concerns about placement provision and service delivery for children. Although many research studies have touched upon the question of foster-carers’ satisfaction with payments, this has not been explored in any depth. Drawing on findings from a study involving 1,181 foster-carers in twenty-one agencies, this article attempts to provide such an analysis with four main objectives. These comprised: examining associations between attitudes towards payment and demographic, socio-economic and fostering career variables; comparing responses between carers based in local authorities (grouped according to levels of payment and performance criteria) and independent agencies (IFAs); gauging the influence of carers’ ‘orientations’ towards foster-care as a ‘professional’ task; and analysing payments in terms of their different components, such as fees, maintenance and certain designated expenses. Among many detailed findings to emerge were the generally low level of satisfaction among local authority carers, especially in comparison with their IFA counterparts and the growing support among carers for salaried status. There was mixed evidence on links between attitudes towards remuneration and the performance of agencies.

    Kirton, Derek and Beecham, Jennifer and Ogilvie, Kate (2007) Still the poor relations? Perspectives on valuing and listening to foster carers. Adoption and Fostering, 31 (3). pp. 6-17. ISSN 0308-5759.


    There has long been debate regarding the treatment and status of foster carers but this has gained added significance in the context of moves towards professionalisation and recognition of carers as part of the children’s workforce. While research studies have often touched upon the extent to which foster carers feel valued, appreciated or members of a team, less attention has been given to the perspectives of social workers and managers. Drawing on quantitative survey data and qualitative material from focus groups and interviews, Kirton et al explore from the different perspectives of supervising social workers, service managers and foster carers, the extent to which the latter are valued, listened to or regarded as ‘colleagues’ by social work professionals and agencies. Key findings include that carers’ sense of being valued may be linked to factors such as age, experience, health and number of placements provided. Discussion of the status of foster carers revealed not only wide variation in practice but also a complex set of sentiments and significant divisions among social work professionals on the question of whether carers should be regarded as ‘colleagues’.

    Kirton, Derek (2007) Step Forward? Step Back? – The professionalisation of fostering. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 13 (1). pp. 6-24. ISSN 0953-5225.


    This article examines the long term if uneven trend towards professionalisation in foster care, within the contexts of theoretical debates on professionalisation and contemporary policy in relation to looked after children. While the professionalising trend has been driven by a number of powerful factors within foster care and by broader societal and policy developments, it remains contentious due to the hybrid nature of foster care straddling the domains of ‘family’ and ‘work’. Various aspects of hybridity are explored including its implications for motivation, training and differentiation among foster carers. While broadly supporting the professionalisation of foster carers, not least as a measure to tackle their exploitation and its gendered nature, it is argued that hybridity requires a delicate balance to be struck and maintained in order that further professionalising measures do not undermine the personal and familial aspects of foster care that are crucial to its success.

    Ogilvie, Kate and Kirton, Derek and Beecham, Jennifer (2006) Foster carer training: resources, payment and support. Adoption and Fostering, 30 (3). pp. 6-17. ISSN 0308-5759.


    This article examines key aspects of training for foster carers, using quantitative and qualitative data from a study of remuneration and performance in foster care. Three main issues are discussed: the training undertaken by foster carers and whether it is thought adequate; foster carer and supervising social worker views on NVQ level 3 training and payment for skills schemes; and how foster carers can be encouraged to attend training regularly. The study found fairly high levels of participation in training among foster carers who generally expressed satisfaction with its quality. However, very few agencies had clear training strategies. NVQ training was broadly welcomed but concern expressed regarding its suitability for all foster carers and its relationship to high quality foster care. There appeared to be scope for improving attendance through attention to organisational issues such as venues, timing of the courses, and the availability of childcare. Finally, the relevance of training to debates on professionalisation and the place of foster carers within the children’s workforce are considered.

    Kirton, Derek and Beecham, Jennifer and Ogilvie, Kate (2006) Adoption by foster carers: a profile of interest and outcomes. Child and Family Social Work, 11 (2). pp. 139-146. ISSN 1356-7500(Print);1365-2206(Online).


    This paper looks at the issue of adoption by foster carers and in particular its financial aspects. The findings stem from a wider study of remuneration and performance in foster care. Drawing on a survey of 1181 foster carers, this paper examines the characteristics of those who have considered adoption. The outcomes of such consideration, including the part played by financial concerns and anticipated loss of support in decisions to proceed with adoption or not, are also examined. The findings reveal a significant level of interest in adoption on the part of foster carers, to which three particular sets of characteristics are found to be associated. First, interest is greater among those more extensively involved in foster care in terms of experience, specialisms and range of placements offered. Second, it is associated with relatively less concern with payment and less 'professional' views of foster care. Third, there is evidence that adoption is more commonly pursued by those who feel less valued by social workers. Fears of losing financial help and support were cited as reasons by more than half of all foster carers who had considered but not pursued adoption.

    Kirton, Derek and Peltier, Erica and Webb, Elizabeth (2001) After All These Years: accessing care records. Adoption and Fostering, 25 (4). pp. 39-49. ISSN 0308-5759.


    While there has been a growing body of research into the experiences of adopted people who approach agencies seeking information or contact with birth relatives, little is known about those formerly in care who access agency records. The findings here, reported by Derek Kirton, Erica Peltier and Elizabeth Webb, derive from a file analysis relating to adults previously in the care of The Children's Society who had sought access to their care records. The aim of the study was to find out more about the care careers of this group and their reasons for contacting the Society. By comparison with their adopted counterparts, those formerly in care tend to access records later in life and are more evenly balanced in terms of gender. The analysis revealed widely divergent careers in care for black and white enquirers respectively, with the former spending longer in care and being much less likely to be in contact, or reunited with their birth families. Implications for practice are then discussed, especially the need to develop post-care services which can help to meet the longer-term identity needs of adults formerly in care.

    Kirton, Derek (2001) Family Budgets and Public Money: Spending Fostering Payments. Child and Family Social Work, 6 (4). pp. 305-314.


    In this second of two papers based on a study of payment issues within foster care, the focus is on expenditure. It is argued that the hybrid public/private nature of fostering gives rise to contradictory pressures for carers, including the status of maintenance payments as both part of family budgets and a form of delegated public expenditure. For example, carers are required in principle both to spend fixed amounts upon foster children and to treat them in like fashion to their own children. In this paper, the issue of ‘like treatment’ is explored, along with the significance of payment for ‘children who foster’ and for relationships between carers and foster children. Also examined are the challenges presented by differences between carers’ material circumstances and those of birth families, especially when reunification is planned. Overall, the paper seeks to show how the handling of expenditure becomes closely entwined with inter-personal dynamics within foster care.

    Kirton, Derek (2001) Love and Money: payment, motivation and the fostering task. Child and Family Social Work, 6 (3). pp. 199-208. ISSN 1356-7500.


    Although the payment of foster carers has attracted greater attention in recent writing and research, coverage of the issues has been limited. In this study, based on interviews with 20 female carers, the place of payment within foster care is explored in greater depth. The focus is on charting how carers perceive their task as ‘parenting’ or ‘job’, whether and how they experience payment as compensation or as an appropriate reward for their skills. Also examined are the ways in which payment may impact upon the practice of foster care, for example in decision making over the taking or ending of placements and the provision of aftercare support for care leavers. The study highlights the distinctive nature of foster care as an institution that straddles the public and private domains, and examines the resulting complexities. It concludes by suggesting that while payment issues provide important threads that run throughout foster care, their influence is ultimately limited by the latter's base within the family.

    Kirton, Derek and Feast, Julia and Howel, Denise (2000) Searching, Reunion and Transracial Adoption. Adoption and Fostering, 24 (3). pp. 6-18. ISSN 0308-5759.


    Derek Kirton, Julia Feast and David Howe Report on findings from qualitative interviews with transracially adopted adults, carried out as part of a research project by The Children's Society. Findings show that those adopted transracially shared many experiences with other adopted people, including almost invariably feeling that they have gained from searching and/or reunion. For many transracially adopted people, issues of racial and ethnic identity figured prominently within motivation for searching, but their needs and aspirations in this regard often went unmet. Finally, the implications of the research for family placement work and post-adoption services are considered.

    Kirton, Derek (1999) Perspectives on 'race' and adoption: The views of student social workers. British Journal of Social Work, 29 (5). pp. 779-796. ISSN 0045-3102.


    This article examines the views of 835 student social workers on race and adoption, focusing on support for transracial and same race adoption respectively. The two principal findings are first, one of great divergence of expressed views irrespective of background factors, and secondly, that, on balance, support for same race adoption is markedly stronger among minority ethnic student social workers than their white counterparts. Background data are used to analyse some of the influences which lie behind the views indicated, including those of social geography and the effects of teaching. Factor analysis identifies attitudes towards the nature and salience of 'black identity' as the most powerful indicator of overall perspectives on race and adoption. Finally, implications of the study's findings are discussed in the light of ongoing controversy regarding policy and practice in the family placement of minority ethnic children.

    Kirton, Derek (1998) Race, Adoption and Tomorrow's Social Workers. Adoption and Fostering, 22 (1). pp. 7-16. ISSN 03085759.


    Derek Kirton summarises responses from student social workers to a questionnaire on attitudes to race and adoption. The respondents were mainly second-year Social Work (DipSW) students specialising in work with children and families. Two key findings emerged from the survey. Firstly, questions of race and adoption evoke very diverse responses, with an overall tendency towards ‘soft’ support for same-race adoption. Secondly, perspectives are significantly divided according to ethnicity, with minority ethnic social work students markedly more in favour of same-race adoption than their white counterparts. In conclusion, Kirton outlines the possible implications of these findings for adoption policy and practice.

Book Sections

    Kirton, Derek (2011) The care and protection of children(Chapter 14). In: Baldock, John C. and Mitton, Lavinia and Manning, Nick et al. Social Policy, 4th edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 315-340. ISBN 9780199570843.

    Kirton, Derek (2009) Young people and crime. In: Hale, Chris and Hayward, Keith J. and Wahidin, Azrini et al. Criminology (2nd edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 429-448. ISBN 9780199227297.

    Kirton, Derek (2009) Step Forward? Step Back? – The professionalisation of fostering. In: Harlow, E. Foster Care Matters. Whiting & Birch Ltd, London, pp. 49-68. ISBN 9781861771179.

    Goddard, Jim and Feast, Julia and Kirton, Derek (2007) Memories, childhood and professional power: accessing the care files of former children in care. In: Robinson, D. and Kelly, N. and Milnes, K. Narrative and Memory: Selected Papers from the sixth annual conference. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 23-31. ISBN 1862180768.

    Kirton, Derek (2007) The care and protection of children(Chapter 16). In: Baldock, John C. and Manning, Nick and Vickerstaff, Sarah Social Policy (3rd edition). Oxford University, Oxford, pp. 475-507. ISBN 9780199284979.

    Kirton, Derek (2005) Young people and crime. In: Hale, Chris and Hayward, Keith J. and Wahidin, Azrini et al. Criminology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 385-402. ISBN 0199270368.

    Kirton, Derek (2003) The Care and Protection of Children. In: Baldock, John C. and Manning, Nick and Vickerstaff, Sarah Social Policy (Second edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 454-486. ISBN 0199258945.


    Now fully updated and expanded, the new second edition of this well established textbook will remain a key book for students of Social Policy and other Sociology related disciplines. The 22 chapters cover a wide variety of social policy and welfare issues each written by an expert in the field. A selection of new chapters have been added and existing chapters have been thoroughly reviewed to take into account recent changes in British and European social policy. Readers are introduced to the key evidence and the main questions about social policy and welfare systems. A central objective of the book is to show how social research can inform social policy debates. The book focuses mainly on social policy in the United Kingdom, but frequent comparisons are drawn with developments elsewhere in the European Union and the United States. The chapters are written in a non technical way and are supported by detailed case study material and a variety of boxes, summaries and discussion questions designed to make the text accessible to students. Each chapter also contains clear chapter objectives, a glossary and suggestions for further reading. New to this edition are - there are a number of new chapters which reflect the latest developments and trends in this area: Social Policy and the Development of Modern Social Welfare Systems; Welfare, Media and Culture; Welfare, Identity and the Life Course; Economics and Public Expenditure Decision Making; The Role of the Voluntary and Non-Governmental Sector; Health and Health Policy; Comparative Social Policy and the European Union; and New Thinking in Social Welfare.

    Kirton, Derek (2000) Inter-country adoption in the UK: towards an ethical foreign policy. In: Selman, P. Intercountry adoption: development, trends and perspectives: Development, Friends and Perspectives. British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). ISBN 1873868847.

Research Reports

    Kirton, Derek (2008) The Pursuit of Permanence: A study of the English child care system. Review of: The Pursuit of Permanence: A Study of the English Child Care System by Sinclair, Ian and Baker, Claire and Lee, Jenny and Gibbs, Ian. British Journal of Social Work, 38 (6). pp. 1258-1259. ISSN 0045-3102.

    Kirton, Derek (2008) Kinship Care: Fostering Effective Family and Friends Placements. Review of: Kinship Care: Fostering Effective Family and Friends Placements by Farmer, Elaine and Moyers, Sue. British Journal of Social Work, 38 (8). pp. 1659-1660. ISSN 0045-3102.

    Kirton, Derek (2008) Keeping Them in the Family: Outcomes for Children Placed in Kinship Care through Care Proceedings. Review of: Keeping Them in the Family: Outcomes for Children Placed in Kinship Care through Care Proceedings by Hunt, Joan and Waterhouse, Suzette and Lutman, Eleanor. British Journal of Social Work, 38 (8). pp. 1659-1660. ISSN 0045-3102.


    Under-researched, patchily utilised, poorly resourced and policy light’ is the description applied to kinship care as an opening gambit in one of the above books, which together attempt to address these and other issues relating to care by family and friends. Both books derive from studies funded under the Quality Protects initiative, although, in hindsight, this might appear somewhat strange, given their many areas of overlap and methodological similarities. The policy backdrop to these studies is that, despite kinship care's identification in the 1989 Children Act as the ‘preferred alternative’ to care by parents and its ‘success’ as found in research, its use remains relatively limited. In this regard, social workers have often been criticized as being insufficiently proactive in seeking help from extended family members, while, for placements, once made, their organizations have been charged with inadequate support. Relevant search in the UK had been limited and generally small-scale and it …

    Kirton, Derek (2007) Care or control? Foster care for young people on remand. Review of: Care or Control? Foster Care for Young People on Remand by Lipscombe, J. British Journal of Social Work, 37 (8). pp. 1439-1441. ISSN 0045-3102.

    Kirton, Derek (1999) Developments in British social policy. British Journal of Social Work, 29 (1). pp. 181-182. ISSN 0045-3102.

    Kirton, Derek (1997) The construction of racial identity in children of mixed parentage: Mixed metaphors - Katz,I. Review of: The Construction of Racial Identity in Children of Mixed Parentage: Mixed Metaphors by Katz, Ilan. British Journal of Social Work, 27 (3). pp. 456-458. ISSN 0045-3102.

Total publications in KAR: 48 [See all in KAR]
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My main research interests relate to child welfare, in relation to which I have written an overview text Child Social Work Policy and Practice (Sage, 2009) and in particular interests in the areas of adoption and foster care.

I have written widely on transracial and intercountry adoption, including the book 'Race, Ethnicity and Adoption' (2000), published by Open University Press and various journal articles.

Another significant area of research interest is foster care, where I have written and undertaken research into its professionalization, in addition to evaluating particular foster care programmes, including Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. A third area of interest is that of later life experiences of people growing up in the care system and the services available to them.

I am currently engaged in writing about recent policy developments in the field of adoption, notably the government’s commitment to significantly increase use.


I am happy to consider applications for postgraduate research on any aspect of child welfare or childhood studies, though particularly adoption, foster care and looked after children. I am also willing to consider any applications relating to social work and social care more broadly.

If you wish to study at the University of Kent, please email me to discuss further.


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Reflecting my research interests, a major focus for my teaching relates to childhood and childcare policy issues. I currently teach two undergraduate modules in this area:

  • Childhood, Society and Children's Rights
  • The Care and Protection of Children

I am also involved in teaching a module entitled Issues in Social Care and I contribute to Social Policy programmes more generally.

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I am a member of the BAAF Research group and acts as a referee for a number of journals and research organisations.

Media appearances
I have taken part in various radio programmes relating to adoption and foster care and been consulted about several TV programmes in these areas.

Professional activities
My work is widely cited by those seeking to influence policy in foster care (most recently in a report by the Policy Exchange and a report for the Welsh Assembly on payment schemes for foster care).

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Dr Derek Kirton

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 13/01/2014