Autumn 2011 - Vol 35 (3)

Editorial: ‘Who helped as long as they lived’ (pp 2–3)
Roger Bullock

Open adoption: adoptive parents’ experiences of birth family contact and talking to their child about adoption (pp 4–16)
Mandi MacDonald and Dominic McSherry

The trend towards more open adoption presents adopters with unique parenting challenges associated with satisfying the child’s curiosity about their origins and maintaining relationships with birth family through contact. This article focuses on the experiences of 20 sets of adoptive parents who were interviewed as part of the Northern Ireland Care Pathways and Outcomes Study. Interviews were analysed following the principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The article explores adoptive parents’ experience of talking to their child about adoption and of post-adoption contact with members of the birth family. Adopters discussed adoption sensitively with their child but were concerned that difficult and complex family histories would present a risk to the child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. All forms of contact proved emotionally and practically burdensome; however, adopters were committed to making it work for the child’s benefit and were open to increased contact should the child wish it in the future. There was little relationship with birth family outside of formal contact. The study reveals the need for a mechanism to facilitate communication with birth families if adopters are to be able to respond to the child’s changing need for contact and information.

Key words: adoption, adoptive parents, post-adoption contact, adopted children, IPA

Getting started with the 1948 Children Act: What do we learn? (pp 17–29)
Roy Parker

Roy Parker reflects on the reform of children’s services in the wake of the 1948 Children Act and the role of children’s officers and children’s committees charged with its implementation in the period 1948–1970. He examines the backgrounds of these officers, many of whom were women seen for the first time in senior positions, methods of recruitment and how the performance of officers and committees was assessed. He also discusses some of the problems they faced, such as how to shift care from residential establishments to foster homes, overloaded caseloads and substandard children’s accommodation, and considers whether any lessons can be learned from the past.

Key words: Children Act 1948, children’s officers, early children’s services reform

Improbable agents of empire: coming to terms with British child migration (pp 30–37)
Kristen Rundle

Prompted by the occasion of Gordon Brown’s parliamentary apology to British child migrants in February 2010, Rundle reflects upon the experience of her grandfather who was sent to Australia as a child migrant in 1934. Integrating research from family records, government documents and her own background as a legal scholar, she explores the social and political architectures that facilitated the child migration scheme during her grandfather’s time, and which constituted distinctive conditions of vulnerability from which some families of child migrants are yet to recover.

Key words: child migration, Australia, empire

Exploring foster carer perceptions and experiences of placements and placement support (pp 38–49)
Amandeep Samrai, Helen Beinart and Peter Harper

The authors report on a study exploring foster carers’ experiences of placements and placement support, including their views of current services. Eight foster carers employed by a local authority, with fostering experience ranging from two to 22 years, were interviewed. The qualitative method of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) was used to analyse verbatim data from eight semi-structured interviews. Six main categories emerged through the analysis. The theory constructed from the data suggests that support formed the basis of a successful placement and that there are interactions between the support the foster carer received and their relationship with social workers and the child. Successful placements occurred when both relationship cycles worked effectively in the context of appropriate support. Related clinical and service implications are discussed and suggestions for future research outlined.

Key words: foster carers’ experiences, foster placements, support, qualitative research

Group work with adopted adolescents (pp 50–59)
Simon Kerr-Edwards

Local authorities are developing groups for adopted young people as a means of them reflecting on their experiences and contributing to further services. Kerr-Edwards reports on the setting up and running of such a group. He considers the literature on trauma, teenagers and group work and recounts how the group originated and evolved. The model for the group and the issues that have arisen from it are discussed. There is further consideration of what has been learnt from the process and how the group may develop in the future.

Key words: adolescence, adoption, group work, trauma, identity

The social acceptance of illegal practices in the Greek domestic adoption system (pp 60–67)
Katerina Nanou

In Greece there are two types of domestic adoption: adoptions through state institutions and by private agreement. Both routes have been subject to considerable criticism because of the delays involved and the dysfunctional system that fails to prevent semi-legal or illegal activities. Nanou reports on the findings from a case-based study that explored concerns about the Greek domestic adoption system. Legal, policy documents and press articles were analysed and face-to-face interviews were conducted with lawyers, social workers and adopters. The study found that legislation was being subverted and bypassed, corruption was tolerated and that illegal practices were being justified.

Key words: Greece, adoption, private adoptions, illegal practices, financial gain, social acceptance

Legal notes:England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Alexandra Conroy Harris, Alexandra Plumtree and Kerry O’Halloran

Health notes:What’s the evidence on health and outcomes?
Dr Helen Palmer

Book reviews
Achieving Successful Returns from Care: What makes reunification work? by Elaine Farmer, Wendy Sturgess, Teresa O’Neil and Dimitri Wijedasa (BAAF, 2011)
Reviewed by John Triseliotis
Social Pedagogy and Working with Children and Young People: Where care and education meet by Claire Cameron and and Peter Moss (eds) (Jessica Kingsley, 2011)
Reviewed by Michelle Townsend