Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Child and Family Research

Infants Suffering, or likely to Suffer, Significant Harm: A prospective longitudinal study

Baby playing with dolls


Decisions made by practitioners to protect and promote the welfare of infants suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm are extremely difficult and will have long-term consequences for their life chances. It is therefore important to know how such decisions are made, and whether they can be improved. This prospective study explores the decision-making process that influences the life pathways and developmental progress of a sample of very young children who were identified as suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm before their first birthdays and were then followed until they were three. The overall objective is to collect evidence which supports decisions concerning which children require permanent out of home placements (such as adoption) and which can safely remain with birth parents.

Findings have had a major impact on policy development. So far they have underpinned the development of policy on: safeguarding children and adoption; the work of the Social Work Task Force; the Munro Review of Child Protection; the Family Justice Review, and the deliberations of the DFE select committee on child protection (written and oral evidence). The study has also been covered by the BBC 1 Panorama programme

Professor Harriet Ward and Rebecca Brown continue their longitudinal research with this cohort of children and are currently tracing their experiences and progress through middle childhood incorporating the views of the children themselves and the people closest to them, including their parents, carers, teachers and social workers.

Cohort age 0-3 years

Infants suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm: a prospective longitudinal study Funded by the Department for Education

Cohort age 3-5 years

Young children suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm: experiences on entering education Funded by the Department for Education



Rebecca Brown, Research Associate at CCFR, has developed a risk of abuse assessment framework, which is currently licensed to the NSPCC. The NSPCC are evaluating the effectiveness of this model for improving the outcomes of looked after children where reunification to birth parents is being considered.

Returning home from care


Rebecca Brown, Research Associate at CCFR, is an advisor for a study being conducted by Coram examining the social, emotional and educational outcomes for children placed for adoption through Coram’s Concurrent Planning Project.  



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