Apr 18, 2009

BAAF Journal: Latest Research

BAAF (British Association for Adoption & Fostering) Winter 2007 - Vol 31 (4)

The experience of adoption (1): a study of intercountry and domestic adoption from the child’s point of view
Amanda Hawkins, Celia Beckett, Jenny Castle, Christine Groothues, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Emma Colvert, Jana Kreppner, Suzanne Stevens and Michael Rutter

Key words: adoption, children’s views, children’s attitudes, intercountry adoption, ERA study, Romania

The study team compared views about adoption for two groups of 11-year-old children (n = 180). Their analyses compared the views of children according to their pre-adoption background: UK domestic adoptees placed before the age of six months versus intercountry adoptees who had experienced extreme deprivation for up to three-and-a-half years in Romania prior to placement. Remarkably few differences were found between these groups, with the exception of two areas. Older-placed adopted children from Romania were significantly more likely to find it difficult to talk about adoption than domestic adoptees, and to feel different from their adoptive families. However, supplementary analyses suggested that these differences were due to increased levels of difficulties within the older-placed Romanian group, rather than whether they were adopted internationally or domestically. The implications of the similarities and differences between these groups for policy and practice are discussed.

The authors are researchers, Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK.

Celia Beckett is also a senior social worker for PACT (Parents and Children Together), Reading, UK

Edmund Sonuga-Barke is Professor of Psychology Developmental Brain-Behaviour Unit, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, UK and the Child Study Center, New York University, USA

An examination of adoption support services for birth relatives and for post-adoption contact in England and Wales
Clive Sellick

Key words: birth family support services, adoption support, post-adoption contact

Support services for the birth relatives of adopted children have received far less research scrutiny than those for adopters and the children themselves. Sellick reports the first stage ‘mapping’ survey of a government commissioned study into birth relative support services and services supporting contact following changes in policy and legislation. The type, range and delivery of such services, commissioned or provided, by local authority and voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support agencies in England and Wales are examined. The survey found that good opportunities exist for linking birth relative and contact support services. However, real challenges remain in promoting support services and reaching birth relatives, and in funding and commissioning such services, particularly from the non-governmental sector.

Clive Sellick is Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Director of International Programmes, School of Social Work and Psychosocial Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich

The Child Wise Programme: a course to enhance the self-confidence and behaviour management skills of foster carers with challenging children
Martin Herbert and Jenny Wookey

Key words: challenging behaviour, looked after children, foster carers, attachment, Child Wise Parent Training Programme, cognitive-behavioural training, collaborative group work, placement instability

Looked after children with a history of maltreatment and abandonment are prone to develop high rates of mental health difficulties. They tend to suffer from multiple impairments, sometimes involving cognitive deficits and extremes of antisocial behaviour. Foster carers' management skills and emotional resources are tested to the limit. A further concern is the contribution of challenging behaviour to the unplanned termination of foster placements. Carers, if they are not to feel deskilled by the increasing numbers of children with special needs placed with them, require a more focused preparatory and follow-up training than they usually receive. This study questioned whether a broadly based cognitive behavioural programme could, by increasing carers’ behaviour management skills and self-assurance, reduce the challenging behaviour of looked after children and the resultant instability of placements. The answers were sought from a randomised controlled study of foster carers attending the parent training Child Wise Programme (CWP) designed by the authors. The programme combines course leaders’ professional experience of working with challenging children and parent groups, and foster carers’ personal expertise based on living with and caring for challenging children.

The intervention, with an experimental group of 67 foster carers and a comparative waiting-list control group of 50 carers, succeeded in meeting just over half of its key aims. An increase in the confidence of the carers was a significant gain. Also positive was the majority of personal reports indicating improvements in looked after children's behaviour, changes generally attributed to the acquisition of new behaviour management skills. Although some of the statistical comparisons were disappointing in their failure to reach significant levels (eg the reduction in placement breakdowns), they provided useful information about ways of improving the training. Qualitative methods were used to explore the subjective responses of participants to the Webster-Stratton and Herbert (1994) collaborative style of training employed. These produced valuable insights into the personal and professional dilemmas of a foster carer's role, as well as data which contributed to the evaluation of the training programme.

Martin Herbert is Emeritus Professor in Clinical and Community Psychology at
Exeter University, and Honorary Consultant Psychologist at the Royal Devon
and Exeter NHS Health Care Trust

Jenny Wookey is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Plymouth Hospitals
NHS Trust, and a Supervisor for the Clinical Psychology Doctoral courses at
Plymouth and Exeter Universities

The Hope Connection: a therapeutic summer day camp for adopted and at-risk children with special socio-emotional needs
Karyn B Purvis, David R Cross, Ron Federici, Dana Johnson and L Brooks McKenzie

Key words: international adoption, adoption, child behaviour, attachment, sensory, self-regulation, intervention, camp

Large numbers of North American and Western European families are adopting children with serious socio-emotional needs. Other children experience similar deficits as a result of neglect and abuse by carers. Often these children are diagnosed with psychopathology and receive drug treatments that can be ineffective and even detrimental. The authors report on The Hope Connection, a project designed to meet the needs of these at-risk children and their families. Its core is a theoretically integrated summer day camp offering activities that are attachment rich, sensory rich and behaviourally structured. Pre-test and post-test data indicate that summer camp had a significant impact on the children’s behaviour (n = 19), as indicated by parent-report measures of child behaviour problems and attachment. These findings are discussed with regard to possible future directions of programmeme implementation and evaluation.

Karyn B Purvis and David R Cross are Associate Directors of the Institute of Child Development, and Professors of Psychology, and L Brooks McKenzie is an MA-Doctoral student, Texas Christian University

Ron Federici is a Neuropsychologist, Federici & Associates

Dana Johnson is Director of the Division of Neonatology and Director of the International Adoption Clinic, University of Minnesota

Inside the foster family: what research tells us about the experience of foster carers’ children
Robert Twigg and Tracy Swan

Key words: Foster carers’ children, foster family, foster care

Although foster care is the main source of out-of-home care for children and young people, little is known about the dynamics of the foster family. This article focuses on one subsystem of the foster family system, the foster parents’ own children. Fourteen research studies (nine published, five unpublished) were reviewed which involved approximately 232 respondents ranging in age from seven to 32 when interviewed and including nearly equal numbers of males and females. Findings include benefits of fostering, impact of fostering on foster carers’ children, responses to loss of role and parental attention, and the impact of the child welfare or foster care system. The authors conclude with several recommendations designed to make fostering a more positive experience.

Robert Twigg is Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina, Canada

Tracy Swan is Assistant Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

Training and experience: keys to enhancing the utility for foster parents of the Assessment and Action Record from Looking After Children
Sarah Pantin and Robert Flynn

Key words: Looking After Children, Assessment and Action Record, foster care, training, Canada

The Looking After Children (LAC) approach is now widely used internationally in child welfare. The approach, which originated almost two decades ago, aims systematically to raise the standard of corporate parenting and improve the outcome of young people in out-of-home care. The Assessment and Action Record (AAR) from LAC is used to monitor young people’s developmental progress on a year-to-year basis. Clearly, foster carers are central to the successful implementation of LAC and it is important that they perceive the AAR to be useful in carrying out their fostering duties. Previous research in the UK and Australia found that foster carers believed the Record to be useful, especially if they were just getting to know the child or if the child had been in multiple placements. The study reported here draws on survey information provided by 93 foster carers in the province of Ontario, Canada. The authors found that foster carers who had received what they saw as higher-quality training rated the AAR as being more useful in their work. Interestingly, however, the amount of experience they had had in using the instrument was unrelated to their ratings of its usefulness. Overall, high-quality training emerged as a central feature of effective implementation. Specific recommendations were made in relation to LAC training curriculum requirements and stakeholder involvement.

Sarah Pantin is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology programme, University of Ottawa, Canada

Robert Flynn is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services at the same university

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