Professor June Thoburn qualified as a Social Worker in 1963 and worked in local authority child and family social work and generic practice in England and Canada before taking up a joint appointment (with Norfolk County Council) at UEA in 1979. As founding Director of the Centre for Research on the Child and Family and of the Making Research Count collaboration, she has a particular interest in finding innovative ways of helping social workers to make appropriate use of knowledge from a range of sources in their practice, a recent major interest is in international child welfare. She is currently a special advisor to CAFCASS and Chair of the Norfolk Family Justice Board. She was awarded the CBE ‘for services to social work’ in 2002.
Since the late 1970s when I started my research career with a study of children in care who were placed ‘at home on trial’ I have studied most aspects of child and family social work. My research has encompassed family support and child protection services for children and families in the community and services for children placed away from home, whether with family members, in foster care or with adoptive families. I am frequently asked to draw on my own research and that of others to provide expert evidence (in the UK and abroad) in complex child welfare court cases, and to undertake analyses of events leading to child deaths or serious injury. I was an advisor to the House of Commons Children Schools and Families Committee for their 2009 Report on Looked-after Children, and provided invited evidence on the research background for court decision-making to the (2011) Family Justice Review and the 2012 House of Lords Select Committee on Adoption.
I have a particular interest in the views of children, parents, foster carers and adopters on the services they are offered. I employ a range of research methods, placing interview and observational data in the context of quantitative data obtained from records, surveys or routinely compiled administrative data. My research usually has a policy focus, and much of it has been funded by the UK government or by child welfare agencies. It also has a socio-legal focus, with relevance to children involved in public and private law disputes. More recently I have collaborated with colleagues at UEA and at other UK and overseas universities to synthesise research on ‘what works’ in the provision of services to vulnerable children and their families. The award of a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship in 2005 allowed me to pursue a long-term interest in children in out-of home care in the ‘developed’ world, and of the relevance of these practices to countries with fewer resources and less developed welfare systems. The project raised questions about the possibilities but also pitfalls of ‘importing’ policies and practices across national boundaries and has led to dialogue with politicians, researchers and social workers in varied welfare systems.