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Professor Brigid Featherstone

Professor Brigid Featherstone

Professor, Social Work

The Open University Faculty of Health & Social Care Social Work


Brid qualified as a social worker in 1982 , working initially with young offenders and as a generic social worker before becoming a team manager of an area based social services team in 1989.  Brid has substantial experience of working in and managing child protection cases. Since embarking on an academic career Brid has developed a research profile in working with men in child protection and in exploring the issues that parents face when involved with the child protection system and in family support. As Professor of Social Work since 2006, Brid has become increasingly involved in exploring and advising on the issues around systems design and reform both in England in the Republic of Ireland.  

Brid’s high profile role in social work and child protection is evidenced by her experience – highlights of which include:

  • Commissioned by Director of Children’s Services Bradford to conduct an audit of safeguarding procedures post the death of Baby Peter Connolly. Presented findings to Local Safeguarding Children Board and staff throughout the directorate.  
  • Member of Every Child Matters Executive, Bradford Children’s Services
  • Author of submissions to Taskforce on Social Work and Select Committee on Children and Families on behalf of the Association of Professors of Social Work  as part of the reform process post the death of Baby Peter Connolly  
  • Author of joint submission (with Family Rights Group) on reform of child protection to the Munro Review
  • Member of  Expert Advisory Group on Training, Research and Practice, Health Service Executive, Department for Children,  Ireland
  • Member of Best Practice Advisory Group, Barnardos Ireland


BA (Sociology) Trinity College, Dublin Ireland

Diploma in Applied Social Studies and Certiicate of Qualification in Social Work, Nottingham Trent University

MA (Social and Community Work Studies), University of Bradford

PhD (Title: Feminism, Child Welfare and Child Protection), University of Huddersfield

Teaching Interests

At the moment my main area of teaching relates to PhD supervision. I am supervising in the areas of international adoption  and  grandparenting in the context of parental imprisonment.

I have successfully supervised students on the following topics:

Fathers, drug addiction and the welfare of children in Saudi Arabia;

Men, masculinities and the discursive construction of ''the paedophile' in Irish newspapers; 

The health and welfare needs of pregnant asylum seekers- the issues for midwifery education.   

Research Interests

1. Evaluation of advocacy for parents involved with the child protection system: I have been involved in two rounds of funded research in this area for a national charity Family Rights Group.  

2. Fathers' involvement with social work and social care services: I have worked with a range of organisations on three funded projects (Fathers Matter 1, 2 and 3)  exploring how services engage fathers where there are child protection concerns. I have also been part of a research team exploring training for social workers in this area.

3.Family and parenting support: I have been involved in a wide variety of funded research  and evaluation projects on the support needs of parents, Triple P parenting programme and Sure Start local programmes.

4. Feminist theory: I have a long-standing interest in applying feminist theory to understanding mothering and fathering in contemporary societal contexts.


Current Research Projects

With Esther Dermott (University of Bristol) and Jacqui Gabb (Open Universiy) I am exploring how fathers negotiate intimate practices in the context of risk. This is being funded by the British Academy.


Authored Book
White, Sue ; Morris, Kate and Featherstone, Brid (2014). Re-imagining Child Protection: Towards Humane Social Work with Families. Bristol: The Policy Press .
Featherstone, Brid (2009). Contemporary fathering: theory, policy and practice. Bristol: Policy Press.
Featherstone, Brigid (2003). Family Life and Family Support: A Feminist Analysis. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan .
Book Chapter
Featherstone, Brid (2010). Gender, rights, responsibilities and social policy. In: Wallbank, Julie; Choudry, Shazia and Herring , Jonathan eds. Gender, Rights and Family Law. London : Routledge , pp. 26–42.
Featherstone, Brid (2010). Ethic of care. In: Gray , Mel and Webb , Stephen A. eds. Ethics and Value Perspectives in Social Work. Basingstoke: Palgrave , pp. 73–84.
Featherstone, Brid (2010). Engaging fathers: promoting gender equality. In: Featherstone , Brid; Hooper , Carol-Ann; Scourfield, Jonathan and Taylor, Julie eds. Gender and Child Welfare in Society. Wiley , pp. 173–194.
Featherstone, Brid and Green, Lorraine (2009). Judith Butler. In: Gray , Mel and Webb , Stephen A. eds. Social Work Theories and Methods. London : Sage , pp. 53–62.
Journal Article
Featherstone, Brid ; Morris, Kate and White, Sue (2014). A marriage made in hell: early intervention meets child protection. British Journal of Social Work, 44(7), pp. 1735–1749.
Featherstone, Brid ; Broadhurst, Karen and Holt, Kim (2012). Thinking systemically-thinking politically: building strong partnerships with children and families in the context of rising inequality. British Journal of Social Work, 42(4), pp. 618–633.
Featherstone, Brid and Fraser , Claire (2012). ‘I’m just a mother, I’m nothing special, they’re all professionals’: parental advocacy as an aid to parental engagement. Child & Family Social Work, 17(2), pp. 244–253.
Featherstone, Brid ; White, Sue and Wastell, Dave (2012). Ireland's opportunity to learn from England's difficulties? Auditing uncertainty in child protection. Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies, 12(1), pp. 49–62.
Featherstone, Brid and Fraser, Claire (2012). Working with fathers around domestic violence: contemporary debates. Child Abuse Review, 21(4), pp. 255–263.
Featherstone, Brid ; Fraser, Claire; Ashley, Cathy and Ledward, Pam (2011). Advocacy for parents and carers involved with children's services: making a difference to working in partnership? Child & Family Social Work, 16(3), pp. 266–275.
Featherstone, Brid (2010). Writing fathers in but mothers out!!! Critical Social Policy, 30(2), pp. 208–224.
Morris, Kate and Featherstone, Brid (2010). Investing in children, regulating parents, thinking family: a decade of tensions and contradictions. Social Policy and Society, 9(4), pp. 557–566.

Other Interests

Patron of MOSAIC 2 ( a charity for families affected by sexual abuse)

Member of Best Practice Advisory Comittee, Barnardos Ireland

Joint Managing editor (with Tess Ridge) of a new journal Families, Relationships and Societies : An International Journal of Research and Debate (Policy Press)

Associate Editor of Fathering

Member of the editorial boards of the following journals:  Child and Family Social Work, Communitania, Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies  

last updated 25-Jan-2012