Dates: 2016 -2020
Research Team: Dr Mary Beek, Prof Elsbeth Neil, Prof Gillian Schofield
Funder: Sir Halley Stewart Trust

In the UK most adopted children are very young (under 5 years) when placed for adoption. They will often have lived in foster care for 18 months or longer before being matched with new parents. Typically, the move from foster to adoptive family takes place in 7–14 days, depending on the child’s age. After the move, children may have little or no contact with their former foster carers. Although these moves can go well, in other cases they can be abrupt and distressing for children and for adopters and foster carers. Professionals are uncertain about how to plan and support these transitions in a more child focussed way.


The project demonstrated that the UEA model has the potential to improve the experience of moving  to adoption for children and their foster and adoptive families, and also that agencies could implement the model within existing procedures and legislation. However, the feedback from the pilot sites also highlighted the complexity of this area of social work. The pilot agencies reported a wide range of practice whilst adhering to the key principles of the practice programme. From these reports we were able to describe three key stages of the moving process (the UEA model): stage 1 – Getting to know each other; stage 2 – making the move; stage 3 – supporting relationships after the move. In contrast to traditional practice, moves made using the pilot programme tended to extend the overlap between foster and adoptive families. This was primarily through allowing for more familiarisation before the move was made and more contact after the move, with the period of intensive contact usually completed in about two weeks, as before.