John has had 37 years experience of social work, mainly with children and families, including field social work, child protection, court work, family centres, residential care, fostering and most recently adoption. He worked as a social worker, team manager, service manager, independent reviewing officer, independent social worker, children’s guardian and professional adviser, for several different organisations.

Having obtained an MA in Advanced Social Work Practice and Planning and the Advanced Award in Social Work, he completed a PhD at in 2012. His topic was “The perspectives and experiences of birth fathers of children adopted from care in relation to their children’s adoption”.


Clifton, J (2012) Birth fathers and their adopted children: Fighting, withdrawing or connecting Adoption & Fostering 36(2) 43-56.

Present role

John is academic adviser to a number of MA Social Work students and teaches the research methods module to first year MA Social Work students. He also contributes to the Centre for Research on Children and Families’ research programme. His particular interests are fathers, adoption and child protection.

Current projects

Click here to see John’s LinkedIn page

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All Publications

Clifton, J., Neil, E.


Success factors in adopter recruitment: Insights from adoption agency social work managers and marketing officers,

Centre for Research on Children and Families, UEA

(Commissioned report)


Clifton, J.


Birth father and their adopted children: Fighting, withdrawing or connecting,

in Adoption and Fostering



pp. 43-56

Full Text UEA Repository



Clifton, J.


Social workers talking to clients: A comment,

in British Journal of Social Work



pp. 39-42

UEA Repository



Key Research Interests

The genesis of my project: Birth fathers' perspectives on the adoption of their children from care
During the time I was professional adviser for an adoption agency, I managed adoption panels, audited practice and initiated policy and project development. It was while I was in this role that I became specially interested in the perspective of birth parents (and particularly fathers) about the adoption process.

From 2004, I introduced the practice locally of inviting birth parents to express their views at adoption panel meetings considering whether adoption was right for their children. This parental involvement has changed the atmosphere in which these key recommendations are made. In addition, my meetings with parents allowed me privileged access to parents' stories.

Although birth parents are important both in their own right and because of their continuing significance for their adopted children, there has always been the tendency for their views and support needs to be neglected. There is now some literature about birth mother perspectives and to a limited extent, birth father perspectives too. However, little is known about contemporary birth fathers whose children are adopted from care usually following care proceedings.

So, as the final part of my MA, I undertook a pilot study of the perspectives of 5 birth fathers whose children have been recently adopted from care. You can see a PowerPoint presentation about the pilot study by clicking here.

My project proposal
This will develop and deepen the pilot study using qualitative methods to understand the viewpoints and perspectives of a range of fathers whose children have been adopted from care in the last 10 years.

Follow this link to see my updated research proposal which has now been approved (both the design and ethics) by the Department of Social Work and Psychology.

Click here to see a concise version of the research proposal for contact agencies and individuals who may pass on information to potential participants.

Click here for a leaflet for birth fathers thinking of participating.

Click here to see my poster for the International Conference on Adoption at the University of Leiden, Netherlands on 14 July 2010.