Preventing adoption breakdown – what social workers need to know

Fully preparing the child and being aware of issues like post-adoption depression can be key in stopping adoption disruption

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The breakdown of an adoption has a huge impact on the adopters and child, whether it happens in the early days of the placement or months or years after the child has legally been adopted. This adoption disruption can have many causes, but there are things that social workers and foster carers can do in order to avoid a heightened risk of disruption.

Elaine Dibben, a qualified social worker and adoption and fostering development consultant for CoramBAAF, has written Community Care Inform Children’s in-depth guide to adoption disruption. These are some quick tips, taken from Dibben’s guide and based on research by Julie Selwyn and colleagues, as well as work by Hedi Argent and Jeffrey Coleman, on what social workers can do to prevent disruption. Inform subscribers can read the full guide and access the adoption knowledge and practice hub.

Ensure full information about the child is shared with adopters

This issue is key in making a good match initially, but also then in preparing and supporting adopters in parenting their child. Social workers should read all available reports on the child, to help build an accurate picture of what the child is like and how their early life has affected their attachments and development. Adopters should then be given these assessments of the child’s attachment patterns.

Preparing the child

Particularly for older children being placed for adoption, the work done to prepare them before moving to their adoptive family is crucial. There are books and other tools to help social workers and foster carers prepare the child, and it is also important to listen to their wishes and feelings. In some adoption breakdowns, children have been clear from early in their placements that they didn’t want to be adopted.

Post-adoption depression

It has taken time for post-adoption depression to be recognised, but it is an issue that should be talked about during assessment and thought about at the point of placement. Information available from the NHS and Adoption UK, and says:

Post-adoption depressions symptoms can typically appear about a month after placement, and research indiciates that it shares characteristics with post-natal depression and minor to moderate depression, whilst also having some unique characteristics.”

It is important that adopters and social workers are aware of the possibility of post-adoption depression, and that early support is sought and provided.

Issue of contact

Contact with siblings, previous foster carers and – in some cases – birth family can sometimes help a child settle into their adoptive family. Contact should consider each individual child’s needs and situation, and adopters should always be involved in decisions. It’s crucial that during their assessment and preparation training, adopters are helped to understand how important it is that they speak openly with their children about their past.

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5 Responses to Preventing adoption breakdown – what social workers need to know

  1. robbie taylor March 14, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    I agree that children should be aware of what’s going to happen to them in the us parents are told that there not aloud to discusses the case with them that leaves the child’s imageation running wild it’s there life to not being evil to tell them what’s going on makes them think there not wanted or that they’ve done something wrong &thats just not in the child’s best interested .

  2. Mand March 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    There has been lots of research about adoption and how much the children should know. As an adopter and a student social worker, I feel transparency is paramount. Children need to know as much as they can comprehend. It is complicated, but if you sugar coat things and they think you are lying then trust us broken. Make them proud of who they are where they have come from and the resilience they have shown. Life is short make lots of good memories xxx And don’t be afraid of regection, it will probably happen at some point,don’t take it personally and try to walk in their shoes, empathy is underestimated!!?

  3. kim noeth March 15, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    It is vital for a child to be able to see where he or she came from. To look into the eyes of a parent whether through picture or live contact. It is also vital for a birth mom to be able to see growth in her child. It helps her to move on from placing an infant or young child to the healthy place where she sees her older child growing and being raised in love. Communication is key in any healthy post adoption relationship.

  4. Jo March 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    How does an independent social worker access this guidance? It says only available to corporate subscribers…

  5. Judy Cooper March 20, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    Dear Jo
    Thanks for your question. I’m afraid Community Care Inform is only available if your employer has bought a subscription. Please contact CCInformHelpdesk@rbi.co.uk or 020 8652 3787 to see if your employer has a subscription and, if so, who to contact to request access.