Challenges to undertaking randomised trials with looked after children in social care settings

Mezey, G; Robinson, F; Campbell, R; Gillard, S; MacDonald, G; Meyer, D; Bonell, C; White, S; (2015) Challenges to undertaking randomised trials with looked after children in social care settings. Trials, 16. p. 206. ISSN 1745-6215 DOI:

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BACKGROUND: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are widely viewed as the gold standard for assessing effectiveness in health research; however many researchers and practitioners believe that RCTs are inappropriate and un-doable in social care settings, particularly in relation to looked after children. The aim of this article is to describe the challenges faced in conducting a pilot study and phase II RCT of a peer mentoring intervention to reduce teenage pregnancy in looked after children in a social care setting. METHODS: Interviews were undertaken with social care professionals and looked after children, and a survey conducted with looked after children, to establish the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention and research design. RESULTS: Barriers to recruitment and in managing the intervention were identified, including social workers acting as informal gatekeepers; social workers concerns and misconceptions about the recruitment criteria and the need for and purpose of randomisation; resource limitations, which made it difficult to prioritise research over other demands on their time and difficulties in engaging and retaining looked after children in the study. CONCLUSIONS: The relative absence of a research infrastructure and culture in social care and the lack of research support funding available for social care agencies, compared to health organisations, has implications for increasing evidence-based practice in social care settings, particularly in this very vulnerable group of young people.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
Research Centre: Centre for Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health (MARCH)
PubMed ID: 25947202
Web of Science ID: 357077600001


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