The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Dr Derek Kirton
Reader in Social Policy and Social Work, Director of Learning & Teaching
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
- 01227 823030
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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- Child Social Work Policy and Practice, Sage, 2009.
- A Childhood on Paper: Accessing the Child-care Files of Former Looked After Children in the UK (co authors J. Goddard and J. Feast), Word Power Books, 2007.
- ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Adoption, Open University Press, 2000.
- Partnership and Empowerment: Working with Children and Families, Sage/British Association of Social Workers, 1997, (co-author G. Virdee).
- ‘What is Work? – Insights from the Evolution of State Foster Care’, Work, Employment and Society (forthcoming)
- '‘Kinship by Design’ in England: Reconfiguring Adoption from Blair to the Coalition’, Child and Family Social Work, 18(1), 2013, 97-106.
- ‘Transracial adoption in Britain: Politics, ideology and reality’ (co-author R Barn), Adoption and Fostering 36(3/4), 2012, 25-37.
- ‘A suitable case?: Implementing Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care in an English local authority’ (co-author C Thomas) Adoption and Fostering, 35(2), 2011, 5-17
- ‘The Use of Discretion in a 'Cinderella' Service: Data Protection and Access to Child-Care Files for Post-Care Adults’, (co-authors J Goddard and J Feast) British Journal of Social Work 41(5), 2011, 912-930.
- ‘A Childhood on Paper: managing access to child care files by post-care adults’, Adoption and Fostering, 32(2), 2008, 50-62, (co-authors J Goddard and J Feast).
- ‘Step Forward? Step Back? – The professionalisation of fostering’, Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 13(1), 2007, 6-24.
- ‘Still the poor relations?: perspectives on valuing and listening to foster carers’, Adoption and Fostering, 31(3), 2007, 6-17, (co-authors J. Beecham and K. Ogilvie).
- ‘Gaining satisfaction? An exploration of foster-carers’ attitudes to payment’, British Journal of Social Work, 37(7), 2007, 1205-1224, (co-authors J. Beecham and K. Ogilvie).
- ‘Foster carer training: resources, payment and support’, Adoption and Fostering, 30(3), 2006, 6-17 (co-authors J. Beecham and K. Ogilvie).
- ‘Adoption by foster carers: a profile of interest and outcomes’, Child and Family Social Work 11(2), 2006, 139-146 (co-authors J. Beecham and K. Ogilvie).
- ‘After All These Years: accessing care records’, Adoption and Fostering, 25(4), 2001, 39-49 – co-authors E. Peltier and E. Webb.
- ‘Family budgets and public money: spending fostering payments’, Child and Family Social Work 6(4), 2001, 305-314.
- ‘Love and money: payment, motivation and the fostering task’, Child and Family Social Work 6(3), 2001, 199-208.
- ‘Searching, reunion and transracial adoption’, Adoption and Fostering, 24(3), 2000, 7-16 – co-authors J.Feast and D.Howe.
- ‘Perspectives on race and adoption: the views of student social workers’, British Journal of Social Work, 29(5), 1999, 779-796.
- 'The Care and Protection of Children', pp.315-340 in Baldock, J, Mitton, L, Manning, N and Vickerstaff, S (eds) Social Policy (4th edition), Oxford UP, 2011.
- ‘Young people and crime’ pp.429-448 in Hale, C., Hayward, K., Wahidin, A. and Wincup, E (eds), Criminology (2nd edition), Oxford UP, 2009.
- ‘Memories, childhood and professional power: accessing the care files of former children in care’ pp.23-32 in Robinson, D., Kelly, N. and Milnes, K. (eds) Narrative and Memory, University of Huddersfield, 2007, (co-authors J. Goddard and J. Feast).
- ‘Inter-country adoption in the UK: towards an ethical foreign policy’ in Selman P. (ed) Inter-country Adoption: developments, trends and perspectives, BAAF, 2000.
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.
I am a member of the BAAF Research group and acts as a referee for a number of journals and research organisations.
I have taken part in various radio programmes relating to adoption and foster care and been consulted about several TV programmes in these areas.
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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