Child safeguarding expert becomes one of UK’s youngest female black professors

Carlene Firmin, MBE, has been appointed Professor of Social Work at Durham University.

The 37-year-old, a pioneer of Contextual Safeguarding, will join the Department of Sociology at Durham later this Summer.

As a leading expert in the safeguarding of young people at risk of abuse, her appointment will see Durham become a hub for Contextual Safeguarding research.

As well as being one of the UK’s youngest female black professors, in 2011 she was the youngest black woman to receive an MBE. She was presented with the honour by The Queen for raising the profile of women and girls impacted by serious youth violence in the UK.

Carlene started her research career speaking to young women affected by gang violence, and supporting them to act as advisors on gender and youth violence. In 2008 she received a London Peace Award for bridging the gap between policymakers and young people.

Her work has been used to advance policy and research into the protection of adolescents in the UK and internationally, and has led to changes in social care responses to abuse that takes place outside of families in England, Wales and Scotland.

Last year, she brought together the Contextual Safeguarding Academics Network to advance how harm beyond families is understood and responded to around the world. At Durham she will continue her work on Contextual Safeguarding, which aims to understand and respond to young people’s experiences of harm outside of their families, such as in schools or wider local communities.

Carlene said: “I am extremely proud of the work we have done in introducing Contextual Safeguarding into practice and policy for those involved in protecting children from abuse.

“Moving to Durham is an exciting opportunity to build upon this work and to explore the influence of Contextual Safeguarding on child protection policies internationally, while working alongside colleagues and partners who have a wealth of expertise in social and community action across different disciplines.

“As one of the UK’s youngest black, female professors, I will contribute to building an academic community that better reflects and understands the societies we live in and influence: for young people, for women and for black and other minoritised communities.”

Durham University’s Simon Hackett, Deputy Provost and Professor of Child Abuse and Neglect, in the Department of Sociology, said: “Carlene’s achievements at a relatively young age are outstanding.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in child safeguarding which is making a positive impact on the well-being of young people across the world who are at risk of abuse.

“She is also a superb role model for our students as they embark upon careers or future research in areas such as sociology, social work, criminology and safeguarding and we are delighted to welcome her to Durham.”

Featured image credit: Francis Augusto

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