Children, young people & familiesMeet our people

Nina Vaswani

Dr Nina Vaswani

Senior Research Fellow, Children & Young People’s Centre for Justice and Cluster Co-Lead

Nina co-chairs the Children, Young People & Families Research Cluster, along with Dr. Eva Kourova. Nina is a Senior Research Fellow at the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice where she oversees the centre’s research programme. 

Nina’s research interests are the experience and impact of loss, bereavement and trauma in young people and how these experiences interface and shape contact with the justice system.  Of particular interest is the overrepresentation of young men in justice settings, and how their exposure to loss, bereavement and trauma might shape their developing masculinities identities, behaviours and outcomes.  As a result, Nina is also interested in institutional and organisational responses to trauma, and the realities of trauma-informed approaches in practice.

Nina is also the PI on the MRC funded Men Minds Project, coproducing new ways of researching mental health with marginalised young men and is interested in children and young people’s conceptualisations of, and aspirations for, social justice.

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Dr Eva Kourova

Teaching Associate and Cluster Co-Lead

Dr Kourova joined the University of Strathclyde in 2021 and prior to this (2019- 2021) she worked as a Module Tutor and Teaching Assistant (PT) at Glasgow Caledonian University in the Social Sciences department. Here she gained Associate Fellowship in Higher Education Academy in 2020. In 2020 Dr Kourova also earned her title of Dr Phil for her dissertation thesis: “Biopolitics and the Transformative Powers of Life: The Case of Roma People in Glasgow.” This autoethnographic research used critical social theory to explore Roma community engagement and development, a field where Dr Kourova has had 15 years prior experience on various posts.

Dr Kourova joined the university as a mature worker with professional experience in staff and project management as well as experience in large, medium and small grants fundraising, experience that stems from her pre-academic employment experience. Her academic interests include biopolitics, migration, community empowerment and participation, social inclusion and justice, inclusive teaching, informal learning and widening of access to HE, and mentoring. In her current post, Dr Kourova has successfully undertaken module lead responsibilities for various modules within the Education and Social Services BA Hons course (Personal and Professional Development; Understanding How People Behave; Context, Policy and Joint Work; Dissertation). Dr Kourova has also successfully supervised students for undergraduate dissertation. Dr Kourova is also Co-Chair of the SWSP GEDI (Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) Committee.

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Robert Porter

Dr Robert Porter

Research Lead, CELCIS

Dr Robert Porter is Research Lead at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection, where he supports a small team of researchers on a range of research projects.

Robert’s interests focus on the involvement of children and young people in formal, semi-formal, and informal social work decision-making, and he has a particular interest in the Children’s Hearings System. With a background in psychology as well as law, Robert has experience of using a range of research approaches in a range of contexts, including systematic review, action research, as well as qualitative and quantitative methods and use of administrative data. Robert has recently been involved in the Children’s Services Reform Research, and is currently PI on a Nuffield funded research into the understanding, use, and experience of section 25 (voluntary care) arrangements, a project looking at young people’s perspectives on Continuing Care, and a study using administrative data to look at experiences of kinship care.  

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Dr Sally Paul

Dr Sally Paul

Senior Lecturer

Sally teaches on the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in social work. Her research focuses on death, dying and loss with a particular focus on children’s individual, social and structural encounters with these experiences from a public health approach lens. She is actively engaged in a variety of inter-disciplinary research projects and knowledge exchange activities related to this area and her work has shaped the development of practice and policy initiatives, particularly in relation to supporting children’s experiences of bereavement.  Prior to working at the university Sally worked as a social worker across a variety of settings with children and young people. These experiences underpin her research and teaching activities and her commitment to participatory research and pedagogical approaches. 

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Melanie McCarry

Dr Melanie McCarry

Senior Lecturer

Dr Melanie McCarry has published widely on interpersonal violence and abuse with a focus on young people’s relationships, domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, needle spikings, abuse in the higher education context and the music sector. In collaboration with the NSPCC and colleagues at Bristol University she produced the first national research on ‘teen dating violence’ using participatory methods. More recently Melanie led the research team and co-produced the Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) Toolkit as a free national resource. Melanie created a bystander training programme which she delivers with her local Rape Crisis partners. Melanie has taught in HE for over twenty years at various UK institutions and in 2015, as Programme Director, established the UG Social Policy programme at Strathclyde.  

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Laura Steckley

Dr Laura Steckley

Senior Lecturer

Laura’s research interests broadly involve deepening our understanding of key areas of practice in order to improve the experiences and life chances of children and young people in residential child care. She is currently working with colleagues at Cornell University to identify and explore potential threshold concepts in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. Findings will have implications for the wider consideration of responding to children and young people when they are in crisis.

Laura course leads the MSc in Advanced Residential Child Care where she enjoys the exciting intersection of her research and scholarship in residential child care with her teaching and curriculum development.

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Dr Brandi Lee Lough Dennell

Research Associate, CELCIS

Brandi Lee is a social anthropologist and Research Associate at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS). Her research interests focus on identity and belonging, experiences of public services, and children and young people’s rights, particularly in relation to children and young people who are looked after or experience discrimination. Her recent research includes local authority permanence processes, national continuing care implementation, and a Nuffield Foundation funded project on how Section 25 arrangements are used, understood, and experienced by children, families and practitioners in Scotland.  

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Dr Francesca Vaghi

Research Associate

Francesca Vaghi is interested in medical anthropology, the anthropology of policy, and childhood studies. She completed her PhD in 2019 at SOAS, University of London, titled: 'Food, Policy and Practice in Early Years Education and Care: children, practitioners and parents in a London nursery'. For her doctoral research, Francesca conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a state-maintained nursery in London over a 12-month period, developing a child-centred methodological approach to meaningfully involve children in research. Aside from investigating how children create self and peer identities through food and eating practices, her work explores how children’s food policy fits into family intervention policies in the context of Britain’s mixed economy of welfare, and how notions of ‘good food’ and ‘good parenting’ (particularly mothering) are interlinked.

Francesca is interested in advancing critical approaches in public health, specifically looking at how dominant policy discourses (re)create and seek to address 'problems' that have particular implications for working class and ethnic minority families, particularly in matters related to food insecurity, childhood poverty, and childcare policy. 

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Dr Alex McTier

Dr Alexander McTier

Evidence & Evaluation Specialist, CELCIS

Alex works with colleagues across the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection on data, research, and evaluation projects. 

Alex has a keen interest in enhancing the collection and analysis of statistical data relating to child involved in child protection processes and has led the development of the Minimum Dataset for Child Protection Committees in Scotland. He has also led research that assesses the impact and implementation of key developments, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families in Scotland and the implementation of the National Guidance for Child Protection Committees in Scotland 2021. Alex has been one of the research leads in the Children’s Services Reform Research, in particular the case studies of transformational reform programmes and capturing the views and experiences of Scotland’s children’s services workforce.   

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Emma Young

Emma Young

Research and Evaluation Associate, CELCIS

Emma works at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection, where she works with colleagues across the centre to support the development and use of evidence to inform policy, research and practice.

Emma’s interests are focussed on care experience young people’s transitions into adulthood and how the children’s services system and services support these transitions. This is reflected in the focus of her part-time PhD looking at professional responses to mothers who are in and leaving care in pregnancy and in parenthood. Recently, Emma has worked on three of the four strands of the Children’s Services Reform Research, in particular to look at what service models exist for delivering children’s services, as well as exploring the children’s services workforce experience’s of current systems for delivering support for children, young people and families in Scotland.

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Dr Joanna Soraghan

Data Analyst and Researcher, CELCIS

Joanna works at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS). She is additionally an associate of the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), where she works within the Understanding Children’s Lives and Outcomes research programme.

Having completed a PhD in Statistics at the University of Glasgow, Joanna focuses on the use of routinely collected data (by local authorities, governments and other public organisations) to derive insights for the public good. With a focus on children and young people who are looked after, she aims to provide an understanding of the experiences and outcomes of young people that can in turn be used to drive improvements in the policies and practices that impact upon them. Her recent work has included a statistical evaluation of the association between the integration of children’s services and children’s health, education and wellbeing outcomes, and an analysis of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on young people’s care journeys in Scotland.

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Marianiki Vlachou

Research Assistant, CYCJ

Marianiki works as a Research Assistant at the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ). She has a background in International Human Rights Law and experience of working with children and young people in third sector organisations. Marianiki has worked in research on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Incorporation in Scotland. She has also supported children and young people’s participation in the Scottish Government’s strategic decision-making in implementing the UNCRC in Scotland.

In her role as Research Assistant, Marianiki provides analytical support to the Scottish Government Bairns’ Hoose Unit for the Pathfinder phase, which brings Scotland a step closer to transformational change for children and young people, improving their right to justice, ensuring they are safe and allowing access to recovery support. She also works on the Children’s Hearings System pilot, which is delivered by South and North Lanarkshire’s social work team alongside SCRA, and is aiming to reduce the criminalisation of care experienced young people.

Marianiki’s research interests also include mental health, identity, and expression.

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Dr Leanne McIver

Dr Leanne McIver

Research Associate, CELCIS

Leanne works at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection. Her main research interests is in education for care experienced learners, and recent work includes research and evaluation with the Virtual School Head Teachers’ Network in Scotland.

Prior to her time at CELCIS, Leanne worked in research and evaluation in outdoor learning. Her PhD research explored the use of educational farm visits in the context of Curriculum for Excellence. She has also worked in administrative and research roles in the NHS, including with Childsmile, the national children’s oral health improvement programme, and on a Medical Research Council project on auditory processing disorder in children.
Leanne is a member of the Scottish Educational Research Association, Scottish Attachment in Action, and the National Association of Therapeutic Parents.

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Dr Ruby Whitelaw

Practice Development Advisor, CYCJ

Ruby works at the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ). Having completed her PhD in 2022 exploring transitions for residential care experienced children and young people in Scotland, she is interested in developing her data collection and analysis skills by using established tools. Her research interests lie in looked after children and young people, lived experience, emerging adulthood, throughcare and aftercare, children and young people in conflict with the law, race, intergenerational trauma and theories of motivation.

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Dr Daniela Sime

Professor Daniela Sime

Professor of Youth, Migration and Social Justice and Vice Dean for Research for the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Daniela joined Strathclyde as a Lecturer in 2005, after working as a researcher at the Universities of Glasgow and Stirling. Daniela’s research interests are in the areas of social justice and inequalities, with a focus on young people's experiences and views, the challenges facing traditionally marginalised groups and evidence-based policy and practice. She has expertise in research, policy and practice in relation to young people's everyday experiences, migrantized populations, youth citizenship, volunteering and political participation in society.

Daniela is currently involved in three UKRI-funded projects, all focussed on examining on-going disadvantages facing particular groups in society:

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Jennifer Davidson, director of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland

Professor Jennifer Davidson

Executive Director, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures

Jennifer has served on national and international committees related to children’s services and was a founding member of the US National Campaign for the Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Dr Graham Connelly

Dr Graham Connelly

Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Dr Connelly is editor of the Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care and guest editor (2022-24) of a special issue on residential child care of the journal Youth. He served as a trustee of Who Cares? Scotland (2005-11) and as a trustee and non-executive director of Kibble Education and Care Centre (2013-23). His research, writing and public engagement has been concerned mainly with the care experience of children and young people, and particularly their experience in school and post-school education and wellbeing. His current research interests include residential care and the history of industrial schools.

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Diane Delaney

PhD Candidate

Diane is a 3rd year PhD student researching the role and value of parents/ carers in their contribution to supporting and promoting their children's health, wellbeing, and development in collaboration with professionals.  Focusing on children aged 3-5yrs old, the project involves interviewing parents and front-line professionals working with children and families in this age category.

The overall aim of the research project is to understand: The value, contribution, and impact of parents/ carers in assessment and decision making on the health, wellbeing, and developmental progress of their child at age 3-5yrs. Data collection for this project has just finished, and Diane is moving onto data analysis.

Diane’s professional background is in health (nursing) and social care (social work) with 23 years’ experience in a variety of settings across these sectors. More recently Diane has been involved in supporting parent involvement in their child’s education, children and parent rights and advocacy.

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Elita Chamdimba

Elita Chamdimba

Social Work / Sociologist / Gender expert

Elita is a third year PhD student. Prior to starting her PhD, she has been a Research Fellow at the University of Malawi’s Centre for Social Research (CSR) since 2018. She’s also the founder and former director of Little Big Prints, a youth organization in southern Malawi that is equipping and supporting adolescent girls in furthering their opportunities for secondary school and tertiary education.

Elita’s PhD research explores the intersectionality of age, gender, education, location and disability by answering the research question; what are the lived experiences and sense of belonging among children and young persons with albinism in Malawi? Her methodology takes a participatory and creative approach using drawing and poetic inquiry among others. In addition to amplifying the voices of an ‘othered’ minority group, Elita applies Umunthu, an Afrocentric paradigm, into the theoretical framework and ontology, to challenge colonial disability research. Her study contributes to achieving SDG10: reduced inequalities.

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Gavin Heron

Gavin Heron


Gavin is a qualified social worker having worked with children and young people in a variety of settings. He teaches on the undergraduate and postgraduate social work courses. Research interests focus on child care and education with a focus on supporting professionals gain better insights into practice. Current research examines the way professionals work with children who present a serious risk to others and uses data generated by the Interventions for Vulnerable Youth project.

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Barbara Fawcett

Barbara Fawcett

Professor of Social Work in the School of Social Work and Social Policy

Barbara Fawcett is Professor of Social Work in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde. She is also joint Head of School with Professor Trish Hafford-Letchfield. Previously she was Professor of Social Work and Head of the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham. She was also Director of Internationalisation for the College of Social Sciences and for the School of Social Policy. Before joining the University of Birmingham in 2013, she was Professor of Social Work and Policy Studies at the University of Sydney Australia and the Head of School and Associate Dean (Research). Whilst at Sydney she was the co-director of the Social Policy Research Network. She is an International member of the Hong Kong Social Work Registration Board and the New Zealand Social Work Registration Board. Prior to moving to Australia in 2004, Barbara was head of the large interdisciplinary School of Applied Social Studies at the University of Bradford. At the University of Bradford, she also co-founded and led the Social Care Research and Evaluation Partnership. Barbara spent eight years in the field as a senior practitioner, manager, contract researcher and head of mental health services. Barbara has been an International member of the editorial boards of the journals Critical Social Policy, Child Care in Practice and the British Journal of Social Work. She has been an Executive Board Member of Barnardos, Australia and has worked extensively in the arena of health and social care. Her work has a strong International dimension and collaborations include Hong Kong, China,  South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. In relation to Children, Young People and Families her work focuses on the areas of disability, mental health, gender disparities and social inclusion.

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