So, why would you be interested in reading a website that I have developed?
I am not any more important than the individuals I work with but I have decided to dedicate some time to bring together some of the wonderful resources out there. Some areas highlight my own work but much of this website draws attention to the work of others. This website is about all of us living in and working with the care sector. It's about all of us who want to improve the lives and experiences of both staff and those with a care background.
Having had my own personal experiences of care I feel the communities and networks we can develop benefit us all. I had some good, some bad and some ugly experiences that have all made me the person I am today. I feel very priviledged to have the opportunities I have had since leaving care in education, employment, travel, friendship and relationships and as such I feel it is important to find various different ways and spaces to work together - with young people in care, care leavers of all ages, academics, policy makers, residential workers, foster carers, social workers and many others - to find innovative, connected and positive practices, policies and pieces of research that improve the lives of young people in care, care leavers and the staff that work with them.
This section, as the title indicates, is about me and gives an overview of the work I have been involved in over the last 15 years. Different parts of this section will be of interest to different people depending on your profession and areas of interest. Feel free to browse at your leisure and ignore the sections that don’t make you curious. I have started with vim and vigour by outlining my philosophy: a philosophy which underpins all of the work that I have been involved in.
A philosophy can contain many different elements. As professionals, I feel we are not often asked about the moralities, ethics or philosophies that underpin the work we do or people we are. Lately some of my philosophy about what it means to be a good professional have been tested by those who have put systems, forms and processes in front of individuals, communities and ethics. So I thought I would use this opportunity to “set out my stall” and the fundamental essence of who I am and what guides the work that I do and hence all you will read on this website.
I am a qualitative sociologist that believes in investing in communities whether this be service providers, service users or research participants. I believe that all research, teaching and practice should have at the heart a commitment to making a change. I therefore believe in carrying out research and teaching in the essence of community activism and passionate scholarship.
Passionate Scholarship was a term coined by Barbara Du Bois (1983). Over 20 years later Deutsch (2004: 886) wonderfully encapsulated the philosophy behind this term. She states:
I became disturbed by the prospect of becoming one of those researchers [researchers, she says, too comfortable or superior to think about how they carry out research]. I was walking a fault line between my heart and my head. What I sought, but did not yet have a name for, was Dubois’s (1983) “passionate scholarship,” modes of research that privilege values and empathy.
Though we “serve” society and individuals within it, this does not mean that we stand outside or above it. Our beliefs, philosophies and even our prejudices will impact on the work we do with others. Being a researcher, teacher or practitioner is not a one-model-fits-all position but we each take these roles up in different ways according to the training that we have had and our values, ethics and philosophy. In these areas, being relational, involved, connected and empathetic are important values to have particularly when there are others pushing “at-a-distance,” disconnected and formulaic practices. I use my personal experiences as care leaver throughout my professional work and I am proud to do so.
I teach and research from an interdisciplinary position drawing on theories and research across sociology, social work, social policy, criminology, psychology and history. In relation to the care sector I am particularly interested in:
• The lifelong impacts of a childhood in care;
• The importance of relationships and the building of a community; and
• Therapeutic provisions.
My broader interests and experience includes:
• Social identities, social movements and minority groups including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
gender, disability, mental health and working women;
• Disadvantaged youth including understanding poverty, subcultures and criminalisation;
• Methodology and ethics in particular the contemporary analysis and presentation of research through visual
methods and the voice of minorities and how they are represented within research.
I spent nearly six years as a Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde. Based within the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC - an organisation which has become CELCIS) and the School of Social Work and Social Policy where all of my work focused on young people in care and care leavers.
I continue to work in this area and with many organisations such as the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), the BBC, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, many residential care providers and a growing group of foster carers and organisations.
I have a BA (HONS) in Sociology and Social Anthropology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Research both from the University of Hull. I am about to submit my PhD in Sociology, Social Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences from the University of Glasgow entitled – Adult Care Leavers: narrative, (auto)biography and identity across the life course.
Previous Positions and Experience
I have enjoyed a wide variety of academic positions firstly at the University of Hull and then in 2009 I moved to the University of Strathclyde. In order to maximise my skills and experience I spent the the first seven years of my career in a variety of part-time positons complementing my teaching and research posts with student support as a study skills support worker, a specialist mentor for students with mental health difficulties and a disability co-ordinator.
In my teaching roles I have designed, delivered and managed modules on core social theory, social research, disadvantaged youth, gender, sexuality, disability and social welfare across degree programmes in:
- Social anthropology
- Social policy
- Social work
- Youth and community work:
In addition, I have also supervised undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and during the summer months taught modules from the BA programmes within Hull Prison and Compass Crossover (probation service for drug and alcohol users). I am interested in exploring any ideas people are interested in within my areas of interest for joint projects, dissertations or PhDs.
Further Selected Biography - Publications, funding and conference papers