Contact Us

The "Contact After Adoption" Team,
Centre for Research on Children and Families,
Elizabeth Fry Building,
University of East Anglia,

+44 (0)1603 597501  /  +44 (0)7825 114333


Professor Elsbeth Neil

I began this project in 1996 because I wanted to carry out research that could make a difference to children and their families. I had worked for 10 years in social care and social work settings and wanted to use this experience in my research. The topic of adoption interested me because it brings up so many important human issues such as love and loss as well as families and identity, and it has been a great privilege for me to be able to hear from children and their families about these important matters over the years.

In the early days I carried out all the research myself. My role in the second and third stages has been to direct the research, although I was still able to get out and about to interview some people myself.

In between stages 2 and 3 of the contact after adoption project I have carried out two other linked studies: one looking at how face-to-face contact is supported by workers, and the other looking at the support which birth relatives receive when their child is adopted.

I also teach students, mainly those training to be social workers.


Dr Emma WardDr Emma Ward

Senior Research Associate, Norwich Medical School


Dr Mary BeekDr Mary Beek

Visiting Fellow, School of Social Work


Julie YoungJulie Young

Senior Research Associate, School of Social Work


Professor June ThoburnProfessor June Thoburn

Emeritus Professor, School of Social Work


Professor Beth Neil

Professor, School of Social Work


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.

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.

Find out more about each stage of this research study below.


{Elsbeth to provide copy}


Practice Resources