Policy Press

Coming to care

The work and family lives of workers caring for vulnerable children

By Julia Brannen, June Statham, Ann Mooney and Michaela Brockmann


Jul 10, 2007

Page count

256 pages




234 x 156 mm


Policy Press
Coming to care

Coming to Care offers an original contribution to the understanding of care and care work in children's services in Britain in the early twenty first century. It provides fascinating insights into the factors that influence why people enter and leave care work, their motivations and the intersection of their work with their family lives.

Focusing on four diverse groups of workers - residential social workers, foster carers, family support workers and community childminders - who take on the care of vulnerable children and young people in the context of relatively low levels of qualifications, the book examines their life course as care workers. It explores: the range of factors that attract people into care work, including the biographical circumstances and the serendipitous factors that propel them into the work; their understandings of and commitment to the work; and how their identities as care workers are created and sustained. 

The book is highly relevant to current policy debates about the development of children's services and reforming the childcare workforce and offers a range of practical recommendations. It should provide interesting reading to policy makers and service providers, as well as academics and students in the childcare and social care fields.

" 'Coming to Care' is a timely examination of the work and family lives of people who provide care for children and young persons deemed to be vulnerable. The book offers an important critique of popular notions about 'work-life balance'..."

Gender and Education, Vol 20:5, 2008.

"The authors' adoption of a combined biographical approach has resulted in a rich data set interpreted with great perception, attentiveness to detail and empathy. The study demonstrates how the situations of people at different points in the life course each offer opportunities for childcare employment. I very much hope that what has been learned from this approach will be taken up elsewhere." Professor Joanna Bornat, The Open University


"This book provides an interesting and well written account of an extremely useful study into the career pathways of four distinct and important groups within the child care workforce. Fascinating and detailed material is presented to show the differences, similarities and overlaps among these groups. The complementary backgrounds of the writers enable them to present their findings in the context of both valuable theoretical insights and practical implications for policy-makers, relevant agencies and members of the relevant workforce." Malcolm Hill, Research Professor, University of Strathclyde


Julia Brannen is Professor in the Sociology of the Family, June Statham is a reader in education and family support, Ann Mooney is senior research officer and Michaela Brockmann is a research officer, all based in the Thomas Coram Research Unit, University of London, UK.

Setting the scene; The study; The origins of a care ethic in care workers' childhoods; Entering care work with vulnerable children; Care workers' careers and identities: change and continuity; What do vulnerable children need? Understandings of care; Experiences of care work; Leavers, movers and stayers; Managing care work and family life; Conclusions and policy implications.