Connecting of Disconnecting? Adoptive Parents’ Experiences of Post Adoption Contact and their Support Needs

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In recent years adoption has increasingly been used to secure alternative permanent families for children in state care who cannot return home to their birth parents or other birth kin. This is referred to as public adoption or adoption from care, and is the main route to adoption in the UK. Alongside this, adoption has become increasingly more open. Many children adopted from care in Northern Ireland continue to have contact with members of their birth family after adoption. Often this contact involves face-to-face meetings, and/or letter-based contact with birth parents, siblings and other birth relatives. Supporting their children in maintaining contact with birth families, either directly or indirectly, can present a range of challenges and rewards for adoptive families. This study aimed to find out more about the extent of post-adoption contact in Northern Ireland, what form that contact takes, and the associated challenges and benefits for adoptive families. We wanted to understand more about what contact is like for adoptive families, what assistance is currently available to them, and how they might best be supported. The invitation to take part was open to all members of Adoption UK in Northern Ireland, but we specifically wanted to hear from those who have birth family contact.
93 adoptive parents completed a web-based survey questionnaire and all indicated that they or their child had had some form of post-adoption contact with birth relatives. We also held four focus group interviews and a total of 26 adoptive parents took part in these discussions. The adoptive parents had a variety of arrangements for contact with a range of different birth relatives. The quality of relationships with birth relatives and their evaluation of the support they received were variable. It was clear, however, that contact involved complex relationship dynamics, and elicited strong emotions in parents and children. The study was funded by the Health and Social Care Board for Northern Ireland and facilitated by Adoption UK. The findings from the study are intended to inform the Health and Social Care Board in it’s commissioning of post-adoption support services and the Health and Social Care Trusts, and Adoption UK’s ongoing work with adoptive families.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBelfast
PublisherHealth and Social Care Board (N.I.)
Commissioning bodyHealth & Social Care Board
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2017


  • adoption
  • contact
  • adoption support


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