Foundations, the new national What Works Centre for Children & Families

Foundations, the new national What Works Centre for Children & Families

Today is an exciting day: the day we launch as a fully merged, newly branded organisation – Foundations, the national What Works Centre for Children & Families. We’ve brought together two sister organisations with a shared aim, and today marks the start of a new vision, mission and strategy through which we will support vulnerable children.

Over recent months we’ve been developing our strategy. We’ve been looking at the policy and practice landscape to understand how we can best leverage and build on the work done so far – by the former organisations as well as by other partners in the sector – to have the biggest impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

We have a clear vision: vulnerable children should have the foundational relationships they need to thrive in life, and we believe we can guide the way to that future by our mission to generate and champion actionable evidence that improves services to support family relationships.

We know that family and the home environment can be a critical source of risk or resilience and that family relationships are fundamental to children’s life chances. Where positive family relationships are not possible, we need to help children thrive in their absence. For children who are unable to live with their parents, an enduring relationship with a trusted and supportive adult is critically important to support them to go on to flourish.

All of these relationships can be improved by high quality support, yet this is not always provided when needed. Currently there are gaps in the evidence around how best to support family and other close relationships in different contexts. We need to know more about how to support family relationships where there are risks of harm, for example, or where children are in kinship or foster care.

As a What Works centre, we will focus on using and championing high quality evidence, working directly with government and local leaders to provide practical solutions and encourage change. We have at our disposal the expertise to synthesise evidence, run robust evaluations, from feasibility studies through to full-scale randomised control trials and quasi-experimental designs, and to use evidence to shape services. Through our guiding principles, we will:

  • Actively pursue a preventative and early intervention approach in our work
  • Use robust and transparent evidence standards to generate and champion rigorous evidence
  • Seek change so that children and families have more power in how services work
  • Ensure our work actively promotes equality, diversity, inclusion, and equity
  • Work with partners to enact change.

We have identified five priority areas to focus 80 percent of our work, with space left to respond to our changing policy environment. We’ve chosen these areas because the scale of the problem means many children are affected, and we believe we have the tools and the opportunity to make a real difference. The areas are:

  • Supporting parenting
  • Strengthening family networks
  • Domestic abuse
  • Relationships for care experienced children
  • Service and practice models.

We know that our work in isolation will not solve or even mitigate all problems. There are significant risk factors at play for many children – such as poverty, or disability – for which the solution lies elsewhere. But we believe that concentrating our efforts on foundational relationships, and specifically in these priority areas, is where we can add most value.

We will also be looking to identify the most effective early interventions across all our priority areas: we know that the earlier we make the right interventions, the fewer families could reach crisis. And we want to see a society that understands and supports the critical role that family and other close relationships play in a child’s development, health, and wellbeing.

You can read our full five-year strategy here and this is where you’ll be able to find the research and resources we’re publishing and new projects we’re launching – sign up to our newsletter to stay in the loop.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the partners and colleagues that have worked so hard with the former organisations from the beginning to support them to be the best they could be. As we start a new chapter as Foundations, we’re excited to be part of building a better future for vulnerable children.


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