Thank you for moving forward the debate about this important issue. Most of my research has focused on adopted children’s contact with their birth relatives. However in my study of children placed into adoption under the age of four, it was apparent that for most children placed in this age range, their significant attachment relationships were with foster carers.
Adoptive parents gave very moving accounts of the intensely emotional nature of the child’s transition from the foster carers to their family, with feelings running high for all concerned, but especially for the children who in some cases experienced a profound sense of loss.
How children coped with this move seem to depend on their age and experience, but also crucially on how well both the foster carers and the adoptive parents could manage their own feelings and work together to reassure the child.
I know from my contacts with professionals in the field that there is a lot of uncertainty about exactly how to manage transitions, and about the advisability or otherwise of children’s contact with foster carers, and I agree with you that it’s time to reflect on and revise practice in this field.
Myself and my colleagues at UEA Prof Gillian Schofield and Dr Mary Beek have been working with John Simmonds from Coram BAAF and Prof Danya Glaser from Great Ormond Street Hospital to develop plans for a project in this area. We are planning to review all the relevant literature; consult with foster carers, adoptive parents, and practitioners already pioneering in this field; and develop and pilot some resources and frameworks that can be used to support practice around children’s transitions.
We would love to hear from any practitioners who have already started work on shaping and changing practice around foster to adoption transitions in their agencies, for example through developing training for foster carers and adopters, practice or assessment frameworks to help plan children’s moves, or who have developed ways of supporting children or adults with their feelings.
We would like to draw on people’s experience and expertise through sharing ideas about these initiatives, and we hope to recruit practitioners to join our stakeholder consultation group. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and will be very pleased to hear from anyone interested in contributing to this project.
Beth Neil, Professor of Social Work at the University of East Anglia