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New website to support professionals involved in adoption cases

A new website has been launched to support social care professionals working with families involved in adoption.

The resource draws on extensive research by Prof Beth Neil at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which looked at adopted children's contact with birth relatives after adoption and what arrangements are like from the point of view of children, adoptive parents, and birth relatives.

The website - Contact after adoption - is believed to be the first of its kind focusing on contact. It has been developed in collaboration with the organisation Research in Practice and practitioners across England, in order to share expertise and produce accessible and practical resources for those involved in this work.

Stakeholders in the family justice system are keen for research informed support and information on the issue of contact. This new open-access resource aims to help practitioners, such as social workers, in making evidence-informed post-adoption contact plans and supporting birth relatives and adopters through contact planning for their child.

The website includes video and audio resources with first-hand testimonies from children, birth and adoptive families on contact and support, research briefings and practical tools for training and working with families. 

The materials are aimed at social workers and other professionals who are involved in planning and supporting post-adoption contact, as well as those who are responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and supporting adopters and foster carers, who train and supervise social workers and contact supervisors.

Prof Neil, of UEA’s Centre for Research on Children and Families, said the type and frequency of contact a child has with their birth family needs careful consideration and planning, and should be determined by the needs and best interests of the child, both in the long and short term.

“The government is encouraging adoption as an option for children in care and the law says that social workers need to consider whether there should be contact with birth parents,” said Prof Neil, a professor of social work.

“My research says that contact decisions should be made on a case by case basis. This website will support social workers in making that decision and on how to make it work for everybody involved. What is important is that we’ve had the input of adoption practitioners in developing the materials, so we are not just coming from an academic perspective.”

Well-planned and supported contact with birth relatives can be a positive experience which contributes to a child’s ability to deal with loss and develop a healthy sense of identity.  Contact can also be a positive experience for both adoptive and birth families.

The importance of planning and supporting appropriate levels of contact has also been highlighted in the Knowledge and Skills statement: Achieving permanence, Children and Families Act 2014 and family court judgements.

The materials on the website are the result of a joint project between UEA and Research in Practice. The project ‘Contact: Making good decisions for children in public law’, brought together practitioners from local authorities and national organisations, to work with Prof Neil and independent social worker Polly Baynes. Further information is available at: http://contact.rip.org.uk/

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