'The Children Were Fine'
When children move from foster care into adoption the transition tends to take place within a tight timeframe, usually between seven and 14 days, with no contact between the child and the foster carer for several months after the move, if at all.
Very little attention or research has been aimed at understanding the rationale for these procedures.
Together with social work colleagues in a Looked After Children’s team, two child psychotherapists carried out a piece of qualitative research, interviewing foster carers, adopters and social workers to analyse in detail five children’s moves into adoption.
We found that the emotional experience of the child, particularly their experience of losing their foster carer, became less prominent in people’s minds during this transition.
It is a highly anxious time for the adults and in the grip of these anxieties they can lose sight of what is happening emotionally for the child.
The child’s outward compliance with the move and lack of obvious emotion at losing her or his carers can be interpreted as signs that they are ‘fine’.
These research findings are explored in the light of our understanding of attachment and loss in childhood, and of individual and organisational defences against pain and loss.
Implications for future practice are discussed.