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.
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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