In the past, adoption usually meant that an adopted child and his or her birth family would have no contact with each other once the adoption had taken place; this is often called "closed adoption". From the 1990s onwards in the UK, adoption has become more "open" with many children having a plan for either letter contact with birth family members or, in a minority of cases, face-to-face meetings. This research has explored how these more open adoptions work out.
The "Contact after Adoption" study has answered questions about what post-adoption contact arrangements are like from the point of view of children, adoptive parents and birth relatives. The study has focused on children adopted in England who were under the age of four when placed for adoption. The families in the study have experienced a range of different post-adoption contact plans from no contact through to face-to-face contact. The study is longitudinal and has taken place in three stages following children from when they were first adopted through to late adolescence. Stages 2 and 3 have been funded by The Nuffield Foundation.
Please click on the tabs below to find out more about each stage of this research study.
This study has found that contact in its various forms can work in a variety of ways. Sometimes it can be enjoyable and seen as beneficial by everyone involved, but contact can also be disappointing or emotionally challenging and it may not be right for every child. Face-to-face contact arrangements and indirect (letter) contact arrangements each have their own benefits alongside challenges, and this study has not found that one type of contact is necessarily easier or better than the other. These findings suggest that children's contact with birth relatives should be carefully considered on a case by case basis, and that support should be available to help ensure that contact is a positive experience for children. We have developed a practice model to help practitioners make and support contact plans that are positive for children and their families.