Growing Up Adopted – New Research to be Undertaken

Today adopted adult, Liz Blakey introduces some groundbreaking research she would like to undertake.

It’s National Adoption Week and as usual, amongst the awards and agendas there is a gaping hole at the heart of the conversation around adoption.

The voice of people who have been adopted.

adopteeresearchDespite lots of conversations around this issue with like minded people- I still can’t really fathom why this is the case- is it because people are scared of what adopted people might say? is it because as adopted people, we have become so used to being compliant and not upsetting ‘the grown ups’ that our voices are out of practice? is it because voices of experience are considered unreliable? or too angry?

I started thinking about this research a long time ago- back when I started my MSc, but I didn’t pursue it as a line of enquiry- partly because I felt constrained by the parameters of the research expectations (no more than 4 participants) and in part because I wasn’t ready. I think I needed to get to a place where I was more accepting of my own experiences before I could be objective about other peoples.

I began literature reviewing a year ago and what I have found has been so limited I keep thinking I must be mistaken- surely there is lots of research about adopted peoples experiences? surely there is study after study about the sorts of interventions and support that adopted people have found helpful? – unless I’m looking in the wrong places (perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the existing research can be found in the fields of mental health and psychology).

Earlier this year I approached Amanda from the Open Nest and asked if she would consider endorsing and supporting the research- I had seen her on Twitter and felt she was an ally and friend in the world of adoption- she accepted and from then on I have been writing and honing the research proposal- approaching the usual behemoths of adoption to see if they would help the advertising process (they wouldn’t- with the very welcome exception of PAC- UK- thanks Peter!)

I had a very supportive but non- active response from the office of Edward Timpson- I am struck by how difficult it has been to get people on side. I think this is really important – I know I am not alone in that- I was so grateful for people coming and listening to me speak about the research at the Open Nest conference on 19th October, for the words of support and offers of help. To make this happen I need to speak to people. Please see below for an introduction to the research, an advertising poster and the contact email. If people are interested in taking part or just want to find out more- please get in touch- I would be delighted to hear from you.
Many thanks for reading.

Adoption is an issue that crosses borders. Adoption straddles the landscape of law, social policy, public health, psychology and mental health, education and social sciences.

Adoption is always an emotive subject.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people are affected directly by adoption (BAAF, 2013) and recent government reform is placing adoption squarely in the public realm. Adoption figures are currently described as being in ‘freefall’ ( 13.05.2015) and around 69,540 children are currently looked after in the care system without a permanent placement. (AdoptionUK, 2015) Tensions continue to exist between offering children the chance of a permanent, safe home and honouring the continuity and integrity of their birth identities, whilst maintaing the child’s right to be free from harm.

The adoption support fund (ASF) was launched in May 2015, altering the landscape of post placement support and hailing a limited opportunity for adoptive families and their children, where applications for assessment can be submitted to local authorities, following which prescribed and regulated therapeutic services can be accessed if deemed appropriate (, 2015)

Adoption support reform has been on the government agenda for a number of years, since the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act, 2002, the process and regulation of adoption has altered enormously. The central tenets of the Adoption and Children Act, 2002 aimed.

  •  encourage practitioners to focus on planning and permanence for looked after children
  • increase the number of children adopted, or otherwise placed permanently from care
  • reduce delays in relevant social work and court processes
  •  improve adoption services for all key participants- children, birth parents and prospective adopters and
  •  put the rights and needs of the child at the centre of the process (cited in Thomas, 2013)

This research seeks to identify where the voices of those directly and indelibly effected by these decisions are. As stated in Thomas, 2013, studies carried out as part of the Adoption Research Initiative (ARI) a precursor to the current reforms, were limited by their lack of inclusion of the voices of those effected by adoption. Children and young peoples perspectives were almost entirely absent from the work, with the majority of participant representation coming from ‘adults involved in adoption’- note: not adopted adults (p.14)

This study aims to capture the voices and experiences of those traditionally omitted from adoption research literature. The people who have grown up adopted, either from experience in care or through relinquishment. How has adoption shaped people? What support have adult adoptees received or would they have found helpful if it had been available? What is the lived experience of adoption?

Adoption research tends to fall into three broad categories: identifying common factors and ‘issues’ in adoption, adoption as a comparative measure, for example twin studies where one twin is adopted into a different family (nature/nurture research) and experiences within the ‘adoption triad’ (adopted person, birth mother, adoptive parents).

Verrier (1993) in her seminal work ‘The Primal Wound’ almost exclusively used the perspective of the adopted person to illustrate the titular experience of profound loss reported both anecdotally and as part of her MA research thesis on the experience of adopted participants. Although the voice of the adopted person can be found in anthologies, creative writing compendiums and memoir, there is very limited inclusion in academic research.

Much adoption research has focussed on the experience of a) adoptive parents, b) birth mothers and c) the search and reunion process involving all three members of the ‘triad’. (see, Howe & Feast, 2012, Aumend & Barrett, 1984, Trinder, Feast & Howe, 2004, BAAF reading list 2014 to name a few) Research capturing the lived experience of adoption, staying close to the frame of reference of the participants through the use of phenomenological enquiry, is so limited as to be imperceptible.

What are you being asked to do? I am looking to speak to people (currently 18+ as awaiting ethical approval) with lived experience of adoption. The interviews will take place either face to face or via Skype and will last up to an hour. The interview will be semi structured but non- directive insofar as I will not ‘steer’ you towards a pre- conceived answer once I have asked the question. This research is not about making rigid statements about whether adoption is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it is about capturing individual experience and honouring the voice of adoptees.

For further information- please contact Liz at



2 thoughts on “Growing Up Adopted – New Research to be Undertaken

  1. Jules Furness

    This is amazing. I so hope your research goes ahead. As a mum through adoption, I find it hard to find balanced information on adoptees views. My little boy is too young to know/express how he feels about it all but I love to hear others perspectives to help me to understand how he may feel in future. Ways I can support him better. I’ll be looking forward to your findings. Good luck x


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