The benefits and challenges of direct post-adoption contact: perspectives from adoptive parents and birth relatives


  • Elsbeth Neil


Adoption in the UK primarily concerns the placing of children from the public care system, often against their parents’ wishes. Most such children have a plan for contact with their birth family, and a significant minority of children have direct (face-to-face) contact with parents, grandparents, siblings or other relatives. This paper reports findings from interviews with 55 adoptive parents, and 39 birth relatives, all of whom had experience of direct post-adoption contact arrangements. Thematic qualitative analysis was used to identify the main benefits and challenges of contact as reported by adoptive parents and birth relatives. The key challenges of contact identified were: having personal meetings in impersonal circumstances; managing highly charged emotions; negotiating relationships when you are both strangers and relatives; and managing control, risk and power issues. The four key benefits of contact related to: maintaining important relationships between the child and birth relatives; providing reassurance to the child and birth relatives; helping the child with issues of identity and loss; and helping the child to deal with their dual connection to the birth and adoptive family. Implications for workers supporting direct contact arrangements are discussed. Key words: post adoption contact; post adoption support, open adoption, adoptions from care, adoptive parents, birth families.