We welcome research on the impact of childhood trauma, abuse and neglect and on the issues that we are confronted by as adoptive families. We also feel that adoption is in itself a social policy that needs to be evaluated. The various forms of support, and the legislation and policy surrounding adoption, can hopefully improve outcomes, but at the very least, they should not be causing harm or suffering.
The introduction of the Adoption Support Fund, which has brought new small scale providers into the mix, is a potentially positive development for practice innovation in the field of adoption support. It also means new challenges, as these non statutory providers are usually working ‘outside the system’, without the infrastructure and resources to conduct methodologically rigorous research, especially large scale definitive clinical trials, which are extremely costly. This sort of clinical research may be the gold standard for pharmaceutical interventions, but the recruitment of hundreds of homogenous children into a clinical trial seems unlikely to be straightforward in the UK adoption context. Research is also, fundamentally, a collaborative endeavour, which makes it hard for practitioners outside the system to conduct, and it tends to happen in academic institutions. Yet decisions about which therapies and/or providers to fund need to be based on sound reasons. Evidence, and formal evaluations, may well be lacking, for what are possibly novel interventions, applied to the UK adoption context.
Somehow researchers, therapy providers and adoptive families must all be brought together, as important stakeholders in the research process, to produce research that is useful, informative and rigorously conducted.
In view of the challenges, and the need to appreciate whether help offered is potentially beneficial, we welcome further discussion but feel a practice based evidence approach might be helpful. This could and should involve a number of different methodological approaches, and include case histories, narrative approaches and process evaluations, where all important context issues are not lost. It is not enough to understand whether a therapy is effective, one must understand why it may or may not be effective in different situations and contexts, and when it should be considered.
It may also be that particular models and interventions are actually less important to outcomes than trust, connection, relationship, and a good understanding on the part of the provider, of needs and problems. All these factors need to be explored together, and from the perspective of different stakeholders, whose views, especially about acceptability and some of the more practical aspects of support and care, are all important.
We parents would like to be part of the research process and part of creating an evidence base that is meaningful and valuable, to improve outcomes for our children. We hope researchers will be interested in working with us and invite them to get in touch.
Please send us an email if you are interested in joining our group, wish to offer support, or would like to work together with us – firstname.lastname@example.org