Professor Nina Biehal

BA (Hons) MA PhD

Visit Prof. Nina Biehal's profile on the York Research Database to see a full list of publications and browse her research related activities.

Profile

Areas of expertise

  • Looked after children
  • Foster care
  • Children's residential care
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Child protection services
  • Comparative child protection policy
  • Returning home from care
  • Adoption
  • Family support

Academic biography

Nina Biehal joined the Department in 1995 as a research fellow, working initially in the Social Work Research and Development Unit and later in the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU). Prior to joining the University of York she had been a social worker in London and Leeds and a research fellow at the University of Bradford and the University of Leeds. She was the director of SPRU's Children and Young People Social Work Research Team from 2007 until 2013, when she joined the Department's research and teaching unit. Her research interests centre on vulnerable children and young people and their families, in particular children who experience abuse and neglect and looked after children. She is currently directing three studies:

• a study of pathways and outcomes for abused and neglected children, funded by the ESRC
• an international study of child protection policies systems and practice in England, Germany and the Netherlands, funded by Norface
• a follow-up study of children in Scotland who are permanently placed away from home, co-directed with Professor Brigid Daniel, University of Stirling

Advisory activities

Current membership of research steering groups

  • Confidence in Care evaluation, University of Cardiff
  • Care Pathways and Outcomes study, Queens University Belfast
  • ENRICH study, Maynooth University, Ireland

Recent advisory activities include:

  • 2012-15 Member of the Department for Education's Expert Working Group Permanence for Looked After Children.
  • 2013-14 Member of Department for Education's workforce working group for the Children's Homes Reform Programme.
  • 2013-14. Research advisor to the Department for Education national study The Children's Homes Workforce.
  • 2013-14. Research advisor to the NSPCC research and development project Achieving emotional well-being for looked after children.
  • 2013-14. Member of the executive group for the Llankelly Chase Foundation's Special Initiative on Young People Facing Severe and Multiple Disadvantage.
  • 2012 -13. Member of the Department for Education's Expert Working Group Returning Home from Care.
  • 2012. Expert witness invited to the House of Lords Select Committee on adoption legislation.
  • 2011. Expert witness invited to the Education Select Committee on child protection.
  • 2010-2012. Research advisor to the At Home in Care research project. Queen's University, Belfast. 
  • 2009 -2010. Research advisor to the Planning for Permanence in Foster Care research project, University of East Anglia.
  • 2005 to date. Member of the Research Group Advisory Committee, British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).

On the editorial boards of the journals Children and Youth Services Review and Child and Family Social Work.

Research

Recent research studies

Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland

Most children who become looked after away from home return to live with their parents, but some cannot safely return to their families. For the latter group, a key concern is how best to provide them with permanence, broadly defined as stability and emotional security. In this context, the central aim of the Permanently Progressing? study was to explore patterns and outcomes of placement for children who enter care, with a particular focus on children in permanent placements away from home.

The study, a collaboration between the University of York, University of Stirling and the Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland (AFA Scotland), investigated histories, pathways and developmental outcomes for children in Scotland who become looked after at the age of five years or under. It employed a range of methods and had five linked components:

  • The Pathways study investigated pathways into, through and in some cases out of the looked after system for all 1,836 children in Scotland age five years or under who became looked after during a single year, analysing local authority administrative data to follow them upover a four year period.
  • The Outcomes study surveyed the social workers and current caregivers (foster/kinship carers or adoptive parents) of 643 children drawn from the Pathways study to compare histories, decision-making, progress and  outcomes for children who were fostered or adopted.
  • The Decision-making study investigated decision-making for children who take different pathways to permanent placement, using focus groups and interviews to explore the views of a range of professionals working with looked after children.
  • A qualitative study explored the perspectives of children and their caregivers through play and talk sessions with children and interviews with their foster carers, kinship carers or adoptive parents.
  • The Data linkage sub-study further explored children’s pathways into foster care by linking local authority administrative data on looked after children to data from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA).

Publications

Read the final reports and summaries:

Pathways study

Biehal, N., Cusworth, L., Hooper, J., Whincup, H. and Shapira, M. (2019) Pathways to permanence for children who become looked after in Scotland

Outcomes study

Cusworth, L., Biehal, N., Whincup, H., Grant, M., Hennessy, A. (2019) Children looked after away from home aged five and under in Scotland: experiences, pathways and outcomes

Decision-making

Whincup. H., Grant, M., Burgess, C., Biehal, N. (2019) Decision making for children

Children, carers and adopters

Grant, M., Whincup, H., Burgess, C. (2019)  Perspectives on kinship care, foster care and adoption: the voices of children, carers and adoptive parents

Data linkage

Hooper, J., Cusworth, L., Whincup, H. (2019) Linking two administrative datasets about looked after children: testing feasibility and enhancing understanding

Information sheet for children and audio file

Project update and research team

The study built on previous University of York studies of fostering and adoption, including the Belonging and Permanence study.

  • Biehal, N., Ellison, S., Ian Sinclair, I. (2010) Belonging and Permanence: Outcomes in long-term foster care and adoption. 
  • Biehal, N.(2014) ‘A sense of belonging: meanings of family and home in long-term foster care,’ British Journal of Social Work, 44, pp. 955-971

Home or care? Pathways and outcomes for children referred to child protection services

This study, funded by the ESRC, investigated outcomes for children placed in care due to concerns about abuse and neglect to those for similar children who were supported at home. It collected data on 390 children who:

  • had ever been looked after (‘in care’) due to concerns about maltreatment or 
  • had been the subject of a Child Protection Plan but were never placed in care.

The study used a survey of social workers to collect data on the children’s histories, including the nature and severity of the maltreatment they had experienced. Information on children’s current circumstances and their health and development, including their mental health and educational progress, were collected through interviews with their current caregivers (parents or foster carers).

The study also explored predictors of recorded maltreatment, linking data collected by the Born in Bradford cohort study of over 11,000 children to administrative data on children referred to Children’s Services.

The study was an inter-disciplinary collaboration between researchers at the University of York, in partnership with the survey company TNS BMRB, the University of Leicester and the Born in Bradford study. The research team included Nina Biehal, Jim Wade, Helen Baldwin, Linda Cusworth, Kate Pickett, Victoria Allgar and Louise Tracey (University of York) and Professor Panos Vostanis (University of Leicester). 

Publications

  • Biehal,N.,Baldwin, H., Cusworth, L., Wade, J. &  Allgar, V. (2018)  'In-home support or out of home care? Thresholds for intervention with abused and neglected children.' Children and Youth Services Review 89, June 2018, pp. 263-271.  
  • Baldwin, H., Biehal, N., Cusworth, L., Wade, J., Allgar, V. & Vostanis, P. (2019) Impact of out-of-home care on the mental health of maltreated children. Child Abuse and Neglect 88, February 2019, pp.189-200.
  • Fishburn,S., Meins, E., Sarah Greenhow, S., Jones, C., Hackett, S., Biehal, N., Baldwin, H., Cusworth, L. & Wade, J. (2017) Mind-Mindedness in Parents of Looked After Children, Developmental Psychology 30 March 2017

The study builds on Nina Biehal and Jim Wade's earlier study of the reunification of children placed in care due to abuse or neglect, which compared decision-making and outcomes for looked after children who return home to those for children who remain in care. See:

  • Biehal, N., Sinclair, I. and Wade, J. (2015) Reunifying abused or neglected children: decision-making and outcomes. Child Abuse and Neglect, 49, pp.107-118.
  • Wade, J.,Biehal, N., Farrelly, N. & Sinclair, I. (2011) Caring for Abused and Neglected Children: Making the Right Decisions for Reunification or Long-Term Care. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

The Hestia Study: Policies and responses to child abuse and neglect in England, Germany and the Netherlands

This international study compared child protection policy, systems and practice in England, Germany and the Netherlands. It was funded by NORFACE, a partnership of 15 European research councils, under its Welfare State Futures research programme.

The study included

  • a comparative analysis of child protection policy and systems in the three countries
  • a comparison of child protection practice based on the analysis of the anonymised case files of 1,200 children (400 in each country)
  • an analysis of parent perspectives on their contact with child protection services.

The study was a collaboration between the University of York (Nina Biehal and Helen Baldwin), University of Groningen (Professor Hans Grietens, Professor Erik Knorth, Dr Monica Lopez, Helen Bouma, Floor Middel, Marleen Wessels) and the German Youth Institute (Dr Heinz Kindler, Dr Eric van Santen, Susanne Witte, Laura Miehlbradt, Professor Sabine Walper).

Publications

  • Biehal, N. (2018) ‘Prevention and protection: child protection in England’ in Merkel-Holguin, L., Fluke, J.D. and Krugman, R. National Systems of Child Protection.Understanding the International Variability and Context for Developing Policy and Practice, Cham, Switzerland:Springer.
  • Lopez, M., Bouma, H., Knorth, E., Grietens, H. (2018) ‘The Dutch child protection system: historical overview and recent transformations’ England’ in Merkel-Holguin, L., Fluke, J.D. and Krugman, R. National Systems of Child Protection.Understanding the International Variability and Context for Developing Policy and Practice, Cham, Switzerland:Springer.
  • Witte, S., Miehlbradt, L., van Santen, E. & Kindler, H. (2018) ‘Preventing child endangerment.: child protection in Germany’ in Merkel-Holguin, L., Fluke, J.D. and Krugman, R. National Systems of Child Protection.Understanding the International Variability and Context for Developing Policy and Practice, Cham, Switzerland:Springer.
  • Baldwin, H. & Biehal, N. (2016) Briefing on the English Child Protection System 
  • Bouma, H., Lopez, M., Knorth, E. & Grietens, H. (2016) Hestia Briefing on the Dutch child protection system 
  • Witte, S, Miehlbradt, L., van Santen, E. & Kindler, H. (2016) Hestia Briefing on the German child protection system 

The abuse in care study

This project, funded by the NSPCC, is the only existing study of the extent and nature of recorded abuse in children’s residential care and foster care in the UK. The researchers sent Freedom of Information requests to designated officers responsible for investigating institutional abuse in all UK local authorities. They also invited senior managers responsible for residential or foster care to complete survey questionnaires on the nature of the abuse identified.

Publications

  • Nina Biehal, N., Cusworth, L. and Wade, J. with Clarke, S. (2014) Keeping children safe: allegations concerning the abuse or neglect of children in care. NSPCC 
  • Biehal, N. (2014) ‘Maltreatment in foster care: a review of the evidence, Child Abuse Review. 23, 1, pp.48-60.
  • Berridge, D., Biehal, N., Hendry, E., Slade, J. and Tapsfield, R. (2014) ‘Refocusing our approach to safeguarding looked after children in placements’ in Rahilly, T. and Hendry, E. Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in Care. Messages from Research. London: NSPCC.

Publications

Books

Wade, J., Biehal, N., Farrelly, N. and Sinclair, I. (2011). Caring for Abused and Neglected Children: Making the Right Decisions for Reunification or Long-Term Care. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Biehal, N., Ellison, S., Baker, C. and Sinclair, I. (2010). Belonging and Permanence. Outcomes in Long-term Foster Care and Adoption. London: CoramBAAF.

Biehal, N. (2006). Reuniting Looked After Children with their Families. A Review of the Research, London: National Children's Bureau.

Biehal, N. (2005). Working with Adolescents. Supporting Families, Preventing Breakdown, London: BAAF.

Biehal, N., Mitchell, F. and Wade, J. (2003). Lost from View. Missing Persons in the UK, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Biehal, N., Byford, S. and Clayden, J. (2000) Home or Away? Supporting Young People and Families, London: National Children's Bureau.

Wade, J., Biehal, N., Clayden, J. and Stein, M. (1998). Going Missing. Young People Absent From Care, Chichester: Wiley.

Biehal, N., Clayden, J., Stein, M. and Wade, J. (1995). Moving On: Young People and Leaving Care Schemes, London: HMSO.

Selected articles and chapters in books

Baldwin, H., Biehal, N., Cusworth, L., Wade, J., Allgar, V. & Vostanis, P. (in press) 'Disentangling the effect of out-of-home care on child mental health', Child Abuse and Neglect.

Biehal,N.,Baldwin, H., Cusworth, L., Wade, J. and  Allgar, V. (2018) 'In-home support or out of home care? Thresholds for intervention with abused and neglected children.' Children and Youth Services Review 89, pp. 263-271.  

Biehal, N. (2018) ‘Prevention and protection: child protection in England’ in Merkel-Holguin, L., Fluke, J.D. and  Krugman, R. (eds) National Systems of Child Protection.Understanding the International Variability and Context for Developing Policy and Practice, Cham, Switzerland:Springer.

Biehal, N. (2018) ‘Entre deux familles: La question de la stabilité, l’appartenance et la permanence des enfants en famille d’accueil en Angleterre’ in Chapon, N. and Premoli, S. (eds.) Parentalité d’accueil en Europe. Regards théoriques et pratiques professionnelles. Aix –en-Provence: Presses Universitaires de Provence

Sinclair, I., Parry, E., Biehal, N., Fresen, J., Kay, Scott, S. and Green, J. (2016) Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care in England: Differential effects by level of initial antisocial behaviour European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 25, 8, pp 843–852

Biehal, N., Sinclair, I. and Wade, J. (2015) Reunifying abused or neglected children: decision-making and outcomes. Child Abuse and Neglect, 49, pp.107-118.

Biehal, N.  (2014) ‘A sense of belonging: meanings of family and home in long-term foster care,’ British Journal of Social Work, 44, pp. 955-971. 

Green, J., Biehal, N., Roberts, C., Dixon, J., Kay, C., Parry, E., Rothwell, J., Roby, A., Kapadia, D., Scott, S. and Sinclair, I.(2014) ‘Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Adolescents in English Care: A Randomised and Observational Cohort Evaluation,’ British Journal of Psychiatry 204, 214–221

Biehal, N. (2014) ‘Maltreatment in foster care: a review of the evidence,’ Child Abuse Review. 23, 1, pp.48-60.

Dixon, J., Biehal, N., Green, J., Sinclair, I., Kay, C. and Parry, E. (2014) ‘Trials and tribulations: challenges and prospects for randomised controlled trials of social work with children’. British Journal of Social Work. 44, 6 pp. 1563-1581. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct035 March 4th 2013.  

Berridge, D., Biehal, N., Hendry, E., Slade, J. and Tapsfield, R. (2014)  ‘Refocusing our approach to safeguarding looked after children in placements’ in Rahilly, T.and Hendry, E.  Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in CareMessages from Research. London: NSPCC Impact and Evidence Series. .

Biehal, N. (2012). 'Reuniting children with their families,' Kwartalnik Pedagogiczny, 57, 3, pp. 63-81.

Biehal, N. (2012). 'L’evidence-based nel mondo reale: sfide e problemi in Inghilterra', Studi Zancan, 13, 2, pp.75-81.

Biehal, N., Ellison, S. and Sinclair, I. (2012). 'Intensive fostering: an independent evaluation of MTFC in an English setting', Adoption and Fostering, 36, 1, pp.13-26.

Biehal, N. (2012). 'Parent abuse by young people on the edge of care: a child welfare perspective', Social Policy and Society, 11, 2, pp.251-263.

Biehal, N., Ellison, S. and Sinclair, I. (2011). 'Intensive fostering: an independent evaluation of MTFC in an English setting', Children and Youth Services Review, 33, pp.2043-2049.

Biehal, N. (2010). 'Demystifying evidence in child welfare' in Maluccio, A. N., Canali, C., Vecchiato, T., Lightburn, A., Aldgate, J. and Rose, W. (eds) Improving Outcomes for Children and Families Finding and Using International Evidence. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Biehal, N. and Rees, G. (2010). 'Children in public care in England: well-being, poverty and rights' in Vranken, J. and Vandenhole, W. (eds) Why Care? Child Poverty and Children's Rights. Intersentia: Antwerp.

Biehal, N. (2009). 'Foster care for adolescents' in G. Schofield and J. Simmonds (eds) The Child Placement Handbook. London BAAF.

Biehal, N. (2008). 'Preventive services for adolescents: exploring the process of change,' British Journal of Social Work, 38, 3, pp.444-461.

Biehal, N. (2008). 'Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care for Young Offenders: comparing young people referred to MTFC in England and the USA' in C. Canali, T. Vecchiato and J. Whittaker (eds) Assessing the Evidence Base of Intervention for Vulnerable Children and their Families. Padova: Fondazione Emmanuela Zancan. pp.218-220.

Biehal, N. (2007). 'Reuniting Looked After Children with their Families: Reconsidering the evidence on timing, contact and outcomes,' British Journal of Social Work, 37, pp.807-823.

Biehal, N. (2006). 'Effective support for at-risk teenagers and their families in the community' in C. McAuley, P. Pecora and W. Rose (eds) Enhancing the Well-being of Children and Families through Effective Interventions - UK and USA Evidence for Practice, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Biehal, N. (2005). 'Support teams for adolescents' in J. Scott, J. and H. Ward (eds) Safeguarding and Promoting the Well-being of Children, Families and Their Communities, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Biehal, N. (2005). 'Working with adolescents at risk of out of home care: the effectiveness of specialist teams', Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 9, pp.1045-1059.

Biehal, N. and Wade, J. (2000). 'Going missing from residential and foster care: linking biographies and contexts', British Journal of Social Work, 30, pp. 211-225.

Research reports

Biehal, N., Linda Cusworth,L., Wade, J. with Clarke, S. (2014)  Keeping children safe: allegations concerning the abuse or neglect of children in care, London: NSPCC Impact and Evidence Series.

Biehal, N., Dixon, J., Parry, E., Sinclair, I., Green, J., Roberts, C., Kay, C., Kapadia, D., Rothwell, J. and Roby, A. (2012). The Care Placements Evaluation (CaPE). Evaluation of Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care for Adolescents (MTFC-A). London, Department for Education

David Berridge, Nina Biehal and Lorna Henry (2012). Living in Children's Residential Homes. London: Department for Education. 

Berridge, D., Biehal, N., Lutman, E., Henry, L. and Palomares, M. (2011). Raising the bar? Evaluation of the Social Pedagogy Pilot Programme in residential children's homes. London: Department for Education. 

Biehal, N. Ellison, S, Sinclair, I., Randerson, C., Richards, A., Mallon, S., Kay, C., Green, J., Bonin, E. and Beecham, J. (2010). Report on the Intensive Fostering Pilot Programme. London: Youth Justice Board.

Biehal, N. and Parry, E. (2010). Maltreatment and Allegations of Maltreatment in Foster Care. A Review of the Evidence. University of York.

 

Contact details

Prof. Nina Biehal
Professor of Social Work
Department of Social Policy and Social Work
University of York
Room: A/B/101

Tel: 01904 321284