Our first post
Ooh, our first blog! Exciting times! We are now LIVE -recruiting participants to our new project: From being adopted to becoming a parent (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council). We know so little about the lives of adopted families beyond the teenage years of adoptees. This is despite the understanding that adoption is a lifelong thing and knowledge that adoption has changed radically in the UK in last 30 years. So, rather than being the adoption of babies of unmarried mothers ‘given up’ because of societal pressures, the majority of adoptions in recent decades in England and Wales, now involve children removed permanently from their birth families by the courts because of concerns for their safety and wellbeing*.
I (Julia Rimmer) started working with Beth Neil on this study at University of East Anglia (UEA) about six months ago, during which time we have mostly been busy connecting, listening, thinking, planning and getting various approvals in place. This will be the first major generational study of adoptee parents and adopter grandparents in England and Wales, and we want to make sure we hear the breadth and depth of people’s experiences: what is it like being a parent when you were adopted? Does becoming a parent change the way you feel about who you are and where you came from? Also, does becoming a parent change your family relationships? How is it being a grandparent through adoption? More importantly we want to help, to share learning and build recommendations so that the lives of future adoptive families, adoptees, their children and parents, are easier.
We have also completed our ‘dream team’ and recruited the very capable Irina Sirbu full time to the project. Over the next year (2019) we will be heading out to meet with 40 adopted people who are now parents and 40 adopter grandparents. We just need to find you all first!
Importantly here, we need to make sure we are hearing from people from different backgrounds, with different experiences. Including different genders, family structures and types, types of adoption, ethnicities etc. We also want to hear from people with different experiences of adoption including the ‘toughies’ that we know (anecdotally) are out there: adopted parents who are struggling because of the harm they have experienced in their lives – perhaps those whose own children have been taken away, and from adopters who are caring full-time for a grandchild or who are estranged from them. We hope we have co-designed the study carefully, so that it is safe for you to talk to us.
It is equally important that we hear from parents and grandparents who have had more straightforward or harmonious family lives too and indeed from those for whom adoption is not even a big part of their lives.
Finally here, we are also interested to hear from people who are perhaps ‘irked’ that we are doing the research. For example, those who think the research isn’t needed, or that we are making certain assumptions about adoption – we are open to challenge and actually want to listen from the lesser heard voices! If you don’t get involved, you can’t change assumptions and they get repeated! More information about the study and what would be involved in taking part can be found on our website: link.
We hope you will follow our blog which will feature contributions from us in the research team and from guest bloggers. Who is the blog for? Well I guess lots of different people. Firstly, adopted individuals and their families. The research is focussed on the experience in England and Wales in the last 30 years, so people in that context, but also adoptive families from other countries and those from more historical adoptions may be interested in following the study. A second group might be organisations or professionals working with adoptive families, new parents or grandparents. The final group would probably be other researchers or academics. This could be those in adoption studies or those more generally interested in questions around identity, risk and resilience. Whilst there hasn’t been much research in this area in the UK, there have been similar studies done in other countries (where adoption is quite different) and studies done with care-experienced parents, and others around custodial grandparenting.
There’ll be regular blog posts to follow. Chances for us to share details about what we are doing, any updates, or emerging findings and perhaps just interesting points of view. We will also host blog posts from others who want to write directly about their experiences of the issues, so don’t be shy!
Afternote: thanks to a reader…
*Please note, this before/after 30 years distinction here is somewhat crude – for brevity. The focus on the last 30 years is not to imply that adoption was ‘easier’, less significant or complex for adoptees in the past, or either that the issues today will be entirely different. Indeed, to interview older adoptee parents/adopter grandparents would be extremely insightful and valuable, but we are here limiting our focus to adoptions resulting from the significant, and not uncontroversial, state policy/intervention to remove a child from its birth family. This will no doubt disappoint some from older generations, and will be acknowledged as a limitation of the study, but we have had to narrow the focus to more contemporary adoptions to ensure findings are most relevant to current and future cohorts*.