Furthering the debate on adoption

Edited by Murray Ryburn.


£16.95 (paperback)

£32.00 (hardback)

ISBN 1 85742 188 4

ISBN 1 85742 187 6

This challenging book deals with an area of child law and
practice fraught with conflict. Ryburn states: ‘The debate…is a
moral debate…which [is]…politically – and ideologically –
driven’. That is certainly true of the book which argues
trenchantly for the ‘repeal of provisions …for forced adoption’.
The book is highly critical of social workers, and it seems
unfortunate there is no contribution from a practicing social
worker to discuss their perspective. Many issues raised underline
the gap between the Children Act and it’s focus on partnership, and
the legal framework for adoption, pointing to the urgent need for
new legislation.

Ryburn’s thought-provoking chapters about the impact of
contested adoptions on birth parents and adopters draw on recent
research and highlight the emotional burden on all parties during
court proceedings and the importance of sensitive, well informed

Of particular note is his finding that adoptees are often able
to initiate contact with birth parents after contested hearings,
indicating that the polarisation encouraged by court process may
not affect their ability to co-operate at a later stage.

A key chapter by Nick Banks addresses issues of attachment. He
uses case examples effectively to demonstrate the importance of
assessing children’s attachments individually. However, his
discussion of attachment theory is disappointing in that although
he mentions early research by Bowlby, Ainsworth and Main, he fails
to discuss later developments which indicate there is
transgenerational transmission of attachment patterns as Murray
Parkes, Stevenson-Hinde and Marris have shown in Attachment Across
the Life Cycle. This has been demonstrated via the use of
standardised interviews with parents to predict future attachment
patterns for their children.

Much research also clearly demonstrates that children’s
reactions to separation are closely related to former patterns of

Banks’ assertion that the cause of disturbed behaviour following
separation can be attributed to separation anxiety rather than
reflecting problems in relationship in the original family, is thus
flawed. This is significant as the book’s arguments against
contested adoptions are partly underpinned by belief in the
importance of contact and fear that conflict in court would
undermine it.

Jeanne Kaniuk is head of Thomas Coram Adoption Service
and editor, of Exploring Openness in Adoption.

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