Paper No.9
Alan Rushton
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London

Summary

Attitudes and practice in adoption are changing and increasing public attention has given rise to very polarised opinions. Voices have been raised in opposition to adoption on the grounds that more effort should be put into family preservation rather than separating children from their origins. Many professionals and academics regard adoption practice as outmoded and in need of radical overhaul.

This paper presents arguments for and against adoption then examines eight key questions concerning contemporary adoption with reference to the available research evidence. The paper argues that changes being championed as advances in welfare practice need to be systematically investigated to prevent premature conclusions being drawn about the best options.

The paper concludes that the value of adoption as a placement choice needs to be reaffirmed and its benefits fully recognised. In cases where adoption is considered advisable, suitable parents need to be found through energetic recruiting and then prepared for the task of parenting a particular child. There should then be no unnecessary delay in making the placement. Where more complex arrangements are indicated, particularly when contact with the birth family is to be maintained, such new developments must be met with more extensive adoption support. Accessible psycho-social help may be needed when problems persist. It is imperative that children who cannot live with their own parents are rapidly found alternative placements so that they can resume ordinary family life.