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Exploring the early experiences of parents who adopt older children: “A happy ending, but an ongoing struggle”?

Palmer, Claire 2020. Exploring the early experiences of parents who adopt older children: “A happy ending, but an ongoing struggle”? PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Since the 1970s, in UK adoption practice, there has been a shift away from placing relinquished infants towards placing children who were once considered to be ‘unadoptable’. These children included older children, placed from the foster care system. The practice of placing older children for adoption is now well established. This dissertation examines the experiences of early parenthood of parents who adopted older children, defined in this study as children aged four and over at the time of adoptive placement. The data presented in this study are drawn from data collected for a larger study, the Wales Adoption Cohort Study. The study is primarily based on 14 in-depth interviews with new adoptive parents 9-months after an older child or children arrived in their home. The findings from the qualitative data are supplemented by findings from an analysis of quantitative data from a questionnaire issued to 84 new adoptive parents at two time points (four-months and sixteen-months post-placement). Using the quantitative data, the characteristics, support needs and experiences of adjustment to parenthood of parents of older- and younger-placed children are compared. The qualitative data were analysed thematically, using codes organised into categories to manage and organise the data. Several key themes were developed from the data, these include the notion of adoption as a marketplace, ideas of family practices, displays of family, identity work, surveillance, and risk. The approach to analysis allowed for new insights to be made around family formation in adoptive homes. From the analysis of the interview data, this study presents the process of decision-making which caused adoptive parents to adopt older children; parents’ experiences of establishing routines and relationships with older-placed children; how parents began to explore and address issues of identity with their new children; and parents’ experiences of receiving support from, and being scrutinised by, social workers after the arrival of their child. The findings from this study, when taken together, suggest that becoming a parent to an older child represents a challenging and emotionally complex transition to parenthood, as adopters of older children face immediate and non-normative parenting tasks. Adopters of older children often experience a high level of scrutiny in early parenthood, both from professionals and from their new child or children. Social workers have the potential to help or hinder adoptive parents as they negotiate this transition to parenthood, and at times, social work practice appeared to be overly scrutinising rather than being experienced as supportive by the new parents in the study. Within this dissertation, recommendations are made as to how social work practice, and policy relating to this, could shift to better support new adoptive parents of older children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Funders: ASCCA
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 December 2020
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:12

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