Mariela Neagu

Picture of Mariela Neagu

Dr Mariela Neagu is the researcher in DSPI, researching adult social care. Her research interests are human rights, children’s rights and long-term care. She holds a doctorate in social sciences and a master’s in international human rights law from New College, Oxford and conducted evaluation research at the Rees Centre. She provided policy advice and conducted research with young people in refugee camps for the AMAR Foundation.

Mariela has more than 20 years of experience in policy and research in children’s social care, having conducted research in both welfare states and emerging economies. She is a former Head of the National Authority for Children’s Rights in Romania (2007-2009) and former policy officer for the office of the European Commission in Romania where she was responsible for the EU funding for the reform of the child protection system in Romania (1999 – 2006). Mariela is founding member of the Oxford Children’s Rights Network. Mariela also provides advice (research evidence) to Child Identity Protection on the centrality of identity to human development.

She is the author of ‘Voices from the Silent Cradles’ (Policy Press, 2021), a book which sheds light on children’s homes, foster care, domestic and international adoption from the perspective of the young people who experienced these types of care. Her work has been published in The International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, the British Journal of Social Work and Children and Youth Services Review. Her article ‘Children by Request: Romania’s children between rights and international politics’ has been cited in John Tobin’s ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Commentary’ (OUP, 2019) and in the 2017 report of the UN Rapporteur on the Sale and Exploitation of Children.

Current projects

Work Orientations and Conditions of Care Workers (2021-2022)

The project, funded by the John Fell Fund, uses Albert Hirschman’s framework of exit, loyalty and voice to examine how workers in care homes manage discordance between the material, the psycho-social and the political, aspects of their work and life. Focused on identifying the realities of their everyday lives especially in a context of COVID-19, it examines the role and limits of their loyalty, the extent to which they see exit and or voice (in terms of political engagement) as available to them, and where the tipping point is between staying or leaving.

Specifically, the project:

  • Explores care workers’ attachment to their work, the working conditions and their perceptions of their choices and how they make decisions to stay or leave;
  • Utilises this and other evidence to co-produce policy insights and practical guidelines with a host of stakeholders.


Voices from the Silent Cradles - Life History of Romania’s Looked After Children, Policy Press, 2021

Love and the State – the Meaning of Love in Children’s Social Care’ book chapter in ‘Family Matters’, Intersentia (2022, forthcoming) 

Academic articles

Conceptualising Care in Children’s Social Services

Who do they think they are: Making sense of self in residential care, foster care, and adoption

What matters to children in care?

Children by Request: Romania’s Children Between Rights and International Politics


Children's rights: the elephant in the room?

A Thought on Wales's Experiment

The Politics of Good Intentions and What I’ve Learned from Romania’s ‘Orphans’

Can children’s rights be the scaffold for love in the care system?

The Uncomfortable Place of Intercountry Adoption in the Human Rights Arena

Research reports

Neagu M , (2021) Growing Dignity: The Lives of Internally Displaced People and How to Better Enable Human Rights Institutions (report for the AMAR Foundation)

L Holmes, M Neagu, D Sanders Elis, Neil Harrison (2020) – Lifelong Links Evaluation Report (for DfE)

Neagu M., Dixon J (2020) The Portsmouth Aspiration Staying Close Evaluation Report, Department for Education,

Neagu M., Dixon J (2020) The Fair Ways Staying Close Evaluation Report, Department for Education