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Professor In Child and Family Welfare, University of Bristol

Debbie took up her position as Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at the School in August 2007. She is currently Professor of Child and Family Welfare and Head of the Centre for Children and families Research.

Debbie is an experienced teacher in schools and in Higher Education. In particular, her interests have been in the sociology of childhood and in the health and wellbeing of children and young people. She is interested in co-productive research methods, creative and arts based research methods with children and publically engaged approaches to research. Much of her research and writing has been related to childhood identities and diversity and she has expertise in areas of childhood disability, children in the MENA region and in particular with children in care and adopted children.

Recent projects have included working with the children's charity Coram on their Post-Adoption Support Services (PASS) project where she researched adopted children's and adopters' perspectives on life storybooks as part of the child's life story work. This project is linked to an AHRC REACT 'Play Sandbox' project that she led with a creative partner (Chloe Meineck) to develop a technologically enhanced keepsake box (called 'trove') for children in care to attach stories to their precious birth objects and keep their precious mementoes secure. Follow on AHRC funding has allowed this to be further co-designed with social workers, adopters, foster carers, children in care and adopted children with an integral multi-media app being part of the current memory prototype. This current work has focused on children's narrative abilities and the use of their loved material objects in enabling them to participate in life story work in playful ways that allow some agency an control over the story of their life. This work is ongoing with a focus on co-developing training materials and approaches that support and enable children and young people to engage in Difficult Conversations about their care histories with adoptive parents, foster carers and social workers.

Debbie was also the academic lead on one of the ESRC funded Productive Margins projects called 'Low-income families in Modern Urban Settings: poverty, austerity and participatory resistance'. This was a co-produced project working with two grassroots community organisations supporting families in poverty in Bristol and Cardiff. This resulted in innovative artistic outputs including a co-authored sociological fictional novel about lives on low-income and the roll out of the Universal Credit system which is available on Amazon.

Debbie is currently leading an international, interdisciplinary team that aims to explore the experiences of the Finnish baby box in Finland and Scotland, where there is currently universal provision, and in Zambia and Vietnam where there are plans to co-produce alternative approaches/ designs to the baby box with local NGOs and families. The intention is for this learning to inform debates in the Global South and North about safe sleep interventions and welfare provisions for new mothers that aim to improve wellbeing and health outcomes in early infant days. She is also part of a team commissioned to review how to engage families where there is a high risk of sudden unexplained infant death (SUDI/ SIDS) in England.


  • 2019–2019
    Professor of Child and Family Welfare, University of Bristol
  • 2016–2019
    Reader in Childhood Studies, University of Bristol
  • 2007–2016
    Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies, University of Bristol