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Birth sibling relationships after adoption: the experience of contact with brothers and sisters living elsewhere

Meakings, Sarah, Paine, Amy L. ORCID: and Shelton, Katherine H. ORCID: 2021. Birth sibling relationships after adoption: the experience of contact with brothers and sisters living elsewhere. British Journal of Social Work 51 (7) , pp. 2478-2499. 10.1093/bjsw/bcaa053

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We examined how adoptive families manage and respond to contact with children’s birth siblings living elsewhere within a nationally representative sample of 96 families who adopted a child between 01 July 2014 and 31 July 2015. We harnessed prospective, longitudinal data to determine the extent to which plans for contact between adopted children and birth siblings living elsewhere materialised over time. We present adoptive parents’ views and experiences of the contact over four years, together with an analysis of factors that were thought to have prevented, hindered and/or enabled contact between adopted children and their birth siblings. The information shared by the adoptive families illustrates the challenges they faced in promoting sibling contact; in weighing up the complexities associated with managing contact in the short term against the anticipated benefit for their child in the longer term; of balancing a commitment to sibling contact with the psychological needs of their child; and of organising contact within the context of interactions with other families involved and social work professionals. On the basis of these findings, we make recommendations pertaining to the management of both letterbox and face-to-face contact and life story work, and underscore the importance of investing in sibling relationships.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0045-3102
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 May 2020
Date of Acceptance: 12 May 2020
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 11:27

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