St Christopher’s Fellowship is one of the leading voluntary providers of services for children and young people, providing fostering, children’s homes and a range of housing and support services across England and the Isle of Man. All of their services are specially designed to meet the needs of the local authority and the young people who use them. St Christopher’s have been working in partnership with Professor Antonia Bifulco, Catherine Jacobs and the team of research psychologists at the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) for more than eight years. Working together CATs team and St. Christopher’s have developed an innovative model of child-care that supports the charity’s mission to build brighter futures for children and young people.
The model is based on attachment principles and uses a ‘Q Pack Assessment’ and Attachment Style Interview (ASI) developed from CATs research measures alongside other standardised assessment tools. Mainstreaming of these assessments allows St. Christopher’s to establish the best package of support to meet the needs of children and young people in their care and to monitor the impact of their interventions. These tools run in parallel with standards set and agreed as part of both the Isle of Man data set and the National Indicators set out by the UK government.
Q Packs The Q pack is a package of self-report tools covering symptoms, attachment insecurity and life events which is given out to each young person when they arrive at the residential home and repeated 3-6 monthly. The questionnaires are completed by young people, carers and teachers to provide a rounded view of the young person’s vulnerability, life events and disorder.
Attachment Style Interview Assessments The ASI provides an assessment of a young person’s relationship with their parents, siblings and also up to three close others. This can determine how the child or young person forms and maintains relationships, which in turn forms the basis for the level of security or insecurity of attachment style. The type of predominant insecure style is then determined – whether ‘anxious’ (enmeshed or fearful), ‘avoidant’ (angry-dismissive or withdrawn) or ‘dual’/’disorganized’, based on a mixed style. The ASI is asked and rated by residential workers who are fully trained in the model. The CATs team write a 6-7 risk and resilience report on the assessment to aid with care-planning for the young person.
Dissemination The findings of the joint work using the Q Pack Assessment and ASI are regularly disseminated on a national level at conferences, at an international level for academics and in practice journals for commissioners and practitioners. At the beginning of July 2013 Professor Toni Bifulco and Catherine Jacobs from CATS presented initial findings on the ‘Q Pack’ to a packed room at the National Children’s Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference Programme in Derby. Toni and Catherine introduced the assessment and showed promising initial findings alongside Ron Giddens and Claire Evans from St. Christopher’s who discussed the wider benefits of using the ‘Q pack’ across their residential homes in the UK and the Isle of Man. ‘Q Pack’: Measuring outcomes, monitoring progress and improving social work practice for young people in residential care and fostering.
Dr. Jeffrey DeMarco, Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Dr. Elena Martellozzo, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, both of CATS have successfully presented and been granted a research award from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), an organisation that exists to assist removing illegal indecent content online, thus keeping young people safe and risk-free. Specifically, the bid will look into the Notice to Takedown (NTD) processes administered by the IWF but with its industry and corporate partners; the utility and functionality of its URL list, a critical element to protecting young people online and preventing the availability and dissemination of indecent context; and engagement with a wide-range of stakeholders from across industry, third sector, law enforcement and government, to bring further transparency and understanding to the organisation’s performance and placement within prevention and intervention narratives. The research is to last for 18 months and will apply a variety of methodological procedures in the pursuit of the above findings. The pair will serve as co-Principal investigators.
University is a time of transition; students assume more independence over their life choices, often moving away from home for the first time and leaving behind established support networks. There is a large research literature that demonstrates how life events such as these can lead to troubles adjusting and potentially problems such as depression (Andrews & Wilding, 2004). It is also evident that students currently have high rates of depressive symptoms with student mental health a topic for national policy (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (Great Britain), 2011). This has attendant effects for universities, as depression and poorer wellbeing is associated with increased drop out and lower satisfaction with university services. Despite this, students often do not seek help because of stigma, self-stigma and vulnerable relating styles (e.g. avoidant attachment style) (Macaskill & Denovan, 2013).
The Department of Psychology is developing two related initiatives to understand the stresses that students face and provide interventions to increase resilience and emotional wellbeing while they study. This will also serve to increase student engagement or inform lack of engagement. This project aims to develop these initiatives to provide screening tools for well being needs and increase integration of well-being education/support into the curriculum.
Antonia Bifulco (PI), Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies CATS, Dept of Psychology
David Westley, Dep of Psychology
Stephen Nunn, Dep of Psychology
Deborah Rodriguez, Dep of Psychology
Ruth Spence, Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies, Psychology
We are delighted to confirm our project work with Action for Children. Following a successful pilot, we are extending the Q pack assessment of children and young people in foster care to establish their risk/resilience in relation to stressful events, attachment style and clinical difficulties or wellbeing. This will complement the ongoing Therapeutic Fostering intervention which has been active in the agency for some time and will allow for both baseline and follow-up assessment of the children/ young people to chart change. We will aid with providing feedback for foster carers and social workers and will train key stakeholders in use of the measures.
Past projects – highlights
CATS in conjunction with the Devon and Cornwall police were awarded a Police Innovation Fund grant. Working with the National Volunteer Police Cadets, the research was undertaken to assist in the national roll-out of the cadet programme across all 43 police forces, as well as to develop a longitudinal survey exploring the impact involvement with a cadet unit may have on young people. The bid also saw the development of a new innovative digital platform and an adult volunteers’ training programme to support of local units. The evaluation, led by Dr Jeffrey DeMarco and with both Professors’ Julia Davidson and Antonia Bifulco as co-investigators, explored the utility of engaging with the police through the cadet programme. This included investigating the psychopathology, trust and attitudes towards the police amongst cadets. Dr DeMarco and the team from Middlesex University analysed and reported on how the digital platform can (and will continue) to provide a rich source of data. The use of this data can feed into concepts of procedural justice, improving youth-police, and public-police relationships, and community engagement’. Final project report.
Professor Antonia Bifulco and colleagues were awarded an ERC project grant of £480,000 for a 3-year project: ‘Stress online: Developing a reliable and valid interactive online method for measuring stressful life events and difficulties.’ The project was run in partnership with Goldsmiths University London and Kings College, London.
Stress is known to be a major contributor to illness and a significant obstacle to wellbeing. It is common in the general population, particularly adolescence and amongst those disadvantaged, and likely to increase at times of economic austerity. To understand stress, it is important to differentiate its objective properties in terms of adverse life events and difficulties and stress responses such as physical or emotional illness.
The project involved developing a new online Computerised Life Event Assessment Record (CLEAR) to mimic characteristics of an existing face-to-face intensive interview approach, but administered remotely at much lower cost, with the aim of developing a measure which will enhance the understanding of stress through improved research and clinical practice.
‘Understanding the Process of Online Grooming and Victim Selection: the Behaviours of Men who Target Children and Young People Online’.
The partnership was headed by Stephen Webster at the National Centre for Social Research, together with Prof Julia Davidson and Prof Toni Bifulco at Kingston University, and partners in Oslo (Prof Gottschalk), Belgium (Prof Pham) and Italy (Prof Caretti). The grant was for €430,000 over a 30 month period to scope out the legal and policy framework in member European countries of internet abuse and to investigate profiles of online groomers and to disseminate preventative messages to schools and parents in member countries. We are grateful for our partners for their support and contribution to this success. The project was sponsored by the European Commission Safer Internet Plus Programme.
We reached the end of this project in Spring 2012, with the final report (view the executive summary of the report) submitted to the EC. The launch of the report was held at the House of Lords on April 18th ‘European Online Grooming Project: Key Findings and Implications’. This work is also being disseminated to the public, with sessions held in each of the partner countries with parents and teachers. These have been very informative about public perceptions, and misconceptions about online grooming and how safety messages can be targeted on vulnerable children and families. We are proud of the success of the project and appreciate the leadership of Stephen Webster at NatCen in directing the data collection as well as compiling the interim and final reports as well as the partnership with our colleagues Prof Pham, Prof Caretti and Prof Gottschalk who were responsible for the data collection and dissemination in Belgium, Italy and Norway.
This research was commissioned by the NSPCC and Children’s Commissioner (OCC) for England to explore the feelings and experiences of children and young people about online pornography. The research team, lead by Dr Elena Martellozzo and Dr Miranda Horvath, was keen to explore the experiences of UK adolescents (11-16) and their feelings about online pornography. One thousand and seventy five children participated in the study (1001 in an online survey and the rest in online moderated discussions/focus groups). The final report can be read here.