Hestia Newsletter

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Hestia: an international research project on child protection policy and practice

In January 2015, researchers from the University of York, in England, the German Youth Institute and the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, launched Hestia: an international research project examining child protection policy and practice in Europe. The project, called Hestia after the Greek goddess of the home and family, is funded by the European NORFACE programme ‘Welfare State Futures (7th Framework Programme). Hestia consists of three parts: comparative analysis of child protection policy and systems in the three countries, a detailed analysis of case files from child maltreatment cases, and interviews with parents involved in child protection investigations. This project therefore encompasses both policy level and case level analyses. The three parts of the project will inform one another, and comparisons will be made between the three countries. Through this comparative analysis, Hestia will generate new insights into child protection policy and practice and have a significant impact on future developments in child welfare in Europe. This, in turn, can benefit a large number of children and families.

The Hestia team
The Hestia team consists of 12 researchers, representing three European countries. It comprises two academic institutions (the University of York and the University of Groningen), and one research institution on children, youth and families (the German Youth Institute). The German team is represented by Prof. Sabine Walper, dr. Heinz Kindler, dr. Eric van Santen, Susanne Witte, MSc., and Laura Miehlbradt, MSc. In England, Prof. Nina Biehal and Helen Baldwin, MSc. are working on the Hestia project. The Dutch team consists of five researchers: Prof. Hans Grietens, Prof. Erik Knorth, Dr. Mónica López López, Marleen Wessels, MSc., and Helen Bouma, MSc.
The team are currently working on the second and third stages of the project. The researchers are working closely with local authorities and other agencies to gather data from 400 children’s case files in each of the three study countries. Data on a total of 400 children referred to child protection agencies will therefore soon be available for analysis. The team has also begun a series of interviews with parents of children involved in the child protection system in each country. We are enormously grateful to the agencies participating in the study for the support they have provided to allow this data collection to take place.
Winter School ‘Youth, Society & Policy’
In March 2016, the Hestia research team hosted the Winter School ‘Youth, Society & Policy: bridging the gap between research, policy and practice’ at the University of Groningen. The purpose of this winter school was to share knowledge, new insights and ideas for the development of the area of child and family services (education, prevention, and child and youth care). For this, we combined expertise from different settings (research and practice) and a range of countries (the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Norway). Several international speakers and speakers from the University of Groningen gave very inspiring presentations at the Winter School. Besides this, the Winter School offered junior researchers (PhD students) the possibility to present their research to senior researchers, practitioners and other students. In this way, they were able to share their preliminary findings, receive feedback and create connections with both the research and practice field for future projects or joined publications. This Winter School was organized in connection to the International Master Track Youth, Society & Policy”, which started in September 2016 at the University of Groningen.
Fred Wulczyn (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago)
Hestia meeting with the Steering Committee
In March, the Hestia team had a very fruitful meeting with the HESTIA Steering Committee. This Steering Committee is composed of representatives with a remarkable career trajectory in the academic field: Dr. Fred Wulczyn (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago), Prof. Marit Skivenes (University of Bergen), Prof. Doris Buehler (University of Wuppertal) and Prof. Nick Frost (Leeds Beckett University). Their outstanding knowledge about international comparisons and child protection and their inspiring ideas resulted in new insights regarding the comparative study of the child protection policies in the three countries. In addition, they provided the Hestia team with important insights with regard to the analysis of case files on reports of child maltreatment and the study design of the interviews with parents.
Hestia research project presented in the USA
Dr. Mónica López López, member of the Hestia research team at the University of Groningen, has presented the first results of the HESTIA project during a research stay conducted at two of the most prestigious research centres in the field of child and family welfare in the USA: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the  Kempe Center at the University of Colorado.
Chapin Hall has, since its inception in 1985 as a research and policy centre, focussed on a mission of improving the well-being of children and youth, families, and their communities. Chapin Hall takes a broad perspective, embracing an interest in policies that promote the well-being of all children and youth while paying special attention to those facing significant problems.

The Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect aims to integrate an innovative and active applied research programme that contributes to the improvement of services for children and families affected by child maltreatment in Colorado, nationally, and globally. 

Dr. Mónica López was hosted by Dr. Fred Wulczyn, director of the Center for State Foster Care and Adoption Data at the Chapin Hall and head of the Hestia Steering Committee, and by Dr. John Fluke, Associate Director at the Kempe Center.
The Hestia team attended the 14th EUSARF (European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents) International Conference in Oviedo. Together with Dr. Fred Wulczyn, we organized a symposium entitled: ‘Child Protection across borders: comparing policy and systems’. This symposium aimed to analyse the nature and impact of variations in child protection systems of four quite different welfare states: England, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. In this symposium, wider assumptions about the role of the state in family life were  discussed, together with the various ways in which different welfare states seek to balance children’s rights to protection (under the UNCRC) and parents’ rights to family life (under the Human Rights Act). Through this comparative symposium, the Hestia team developed new insights into both child protection policy and practice and can thus have a significant impact on future developments in child welfare internationally.
Project Hebe: A study on the experiences of children in child protection
Thanks to a new grant, the Dutch team had the possibility to add a new study to the Hestia project. This project, called Hebe after the Greek goddess of youth, explores the experiences of children with child protection investigations. Children and young adults who suffered maltreatment will be involved in the development of the new study design, the research instrument and possible dissemination of information, as co-researchers. This study aims to gain knowledge about the experiences of children who have been involved in child protection investigations to fill in a gap in this research field. Besides this, the new knowledge will contribute to the development of innovative scientific ideas about involving children in scientific research, and about appropriate methods to do this. In addition, this study will try to improve the approaches in child protection and will attempt to bring the approaches more into line with the immediate needs of the children. Lastly, this study will give children a voice and it will provide an opportunity to reflect on the current child protection system. This study will thus show the value of including children’s views in both the research and in the evaluation of policy and practice.
Policy briefings online
The first results of the policy analyses are published online! You can find an overview of the English, German and Dutch child protection policies via the following link:
Summer School
In August 2017, a Summer School will be organized: The Future of Child and Family Welfare Policy, looking through different lenses. This summer school is the joint product of researchers from two European projects on child and family welfare funded by NORFACE: HESTIA and FACSK, and the European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF and EUSARF Academy). The members represent the following institutions: University of Groningen, University of York and the Deutsches Jugendinstitut (HESTIA); and Umeå University, University of Stavanger, University of Nottingham and University of Birmingham (FACSK). More information regarding the Summer School can be found here
Programme Summer School:
  • Monday 21 August: Child and welfare policy in Europe
  • Tuesday 22 August: International comparisons of child and family welfare policy and research
  • Wednesday 23 August: Voices of children and parents in contact with child protection
  • Thursday 24 August: Perspectives of professionals working in the child protection system
  • Friday 25 August: Professional judgment and decision- making in the child protection system
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