Adoption and Fostering of Children

Children are sometimes put up for adoption because their biological parents cannot raise them. Adoption applicants must inform the local government of their plan to adopt. When an adoption application is filed with the court, the court appoints a "guardian ad litem," generally a social worker. They ensure that consent to adoption has been provided following current legislation.

The parent, generally the mother, is requested to provide her consent three times: first, when she requests an adoption agency to place her child for adoption; second, when the adopters submit their application; and third, when the mother signs her assent formally before a judge.

Children Adopted in Infancy

These adoptees have somewhat more incredible difficulty than non-adopted children, most disruptive issues, with challenges most noticeable in later childhood and early adolescence. Although most infant-adopted children are in the normal range of development, clinician referrals of infant-adopted children are much higher than for non-adoptees, indicating a tiny high-risk subset. Some of this over-representation in clinical groups is most likely due to genetic risks. On the other hand, a well-functioning adoptive family environment is a protective factor for children whose biological parents had a heritable mental illness, drank alcohol, or had a criminal record.

Early short-term therapies in newborn adoptions can improve parental sensitivity and baby attachment security while decreasing rates of attachment disorganisation. Clinically significant difficulties after infancy include children's developing comprehension of adoption and their curiosity about their origins. Children must revisit these concerns as they progress cognitively and emotionally. When adoptive parents are uncomfortable with the matter, children may avoid bringing it up, leading parents to assume, often with relief, that the kid is 'not interested' or 'already knows everything'.

Foster Children

Most looked-after children (LAC) in the United Kingdom are fostered. Foster parents frequently have limited knowledge about the child's background with which to make sense of their actions. Children may lack a feeling of permanence or belong even in secure, long-term foster households. LAC children do much worse in school than other children, with the disparity worsening with each level.

Children that enter care are already socially disadvantaged, yet foster care does not alleviate this disadvantage. Prior mistreatment significantly impacts foster children's educational success, even in certain situations. In contrast to many foster carers, who lack the adopters' legal status as parents, lifetime commitment to the kid, and frequently their educational and social background, adopters may often argue vigorously for their children's needs.

Looked-after children have significantly greater rates of mental problems than children who remain in their homes. Ford discovered that 46.4% of LAC had at least one ICD-10 psychiatric diagnosis, compared to 14.6% of disadvantaged children and 8.5% of non-deprived children living in private families. Although children in residential care were the most troubled, 38.6% of foster children had mental problems. Comorbidity was high, which is addressed more below regarding psychiatric categorization.

Because few children entered care due to parental sickness, psychiatric disease in the birth parents cannot explain the vast disparity between LAC and others. Although experiences in care may be related to issues (for example, the frequency of disorder was more significant when there was numerous recent placement transfers), the children's mental disorders are likely to result primarily from abusive or negligent parents.

Furthermore, neurological abnormalities have been documented in children exposed to prenatal and neonatal stress, which is anticipated to be more frequent in low-income households; and neurobiological changes are also known to emerge from early maltreatment.

Children Adopted from Care

While most LAC is above 10, most children adopted are under five. It should be emphasised that Ford et al. discovered that the likelihood of mental disorders in this younger age group was equally as high as in older children. The impact of mistreatment and challenges in connection and relationships are two clear areas of difficulty among later-adopted and foster children.

Concerning mistreatment, the ACC, as previously said, evaluates various areas of potential difficulties. Clinicians should be on the lookout for post-traumatic symptoms and sadness, which are frequently co-occurring with PTSD. Traumatic memories may only arise after the kid feels comfortable in foster care or when adoption becomes permanent.

Triggers might include subsequent losses or significant pressures and reminders such as anniversaries or locations. Children may have fragmented memories and feel 'crazy' or overwhelmed by emotions, flashbacks, or nightmares; thus, reassurance is critical. The initial traumatic experiences are frequently unknown to services or foster/adoptive parents, making it more challenging for adults to assist the kid in making sense of unpleasant memories or feelings.

Maltreated children are obviously at high risk of 'insecure' attachment organisation; however, because the attachment figure they need as a source of security is also a source of fear, they are at significantly increased risk of attachment disorganisation. Insecure-disorganized attachment is associated with subsequent behavioural and emotional issues, including aggressive and oppositional conduct, later dissociative symptoms, and lower self-confidence and social competence.

Treatment Considerations

Children who have experienced maltreatment and disruption prior to adoption placement can have a tremendous impact on previously well-functioning adoptive families, and therapists should be sceptical of pathologizing these families as the apparent source of troubles. However, models that place all of the difficulty in the child's behaviour and abuse history, viewing adoptive parents as "co-therapists," risk underestimating the importance of the child-parent interaction; abused children can "push the buttons" of specific vulnerabilities in adoptive parents in ways that are not always predictable by professionals or parents.

A history of the placement, including the adoptive parents' expectations, what information about the child they were given, what potential difficulties they were led to expect, whether they can identify likeable qualities in the child, and what support they have, including extended family, is an integral part of clinical work.

Adoptive parents want detailed information on their child's past. If information is missing, it should be collected as quickly as possible so that the clinician may utilise it with the parents to assist them in attuning to and making sense of their child's answers and changing unfavourable interaction patterns. If youngster does not have a straightforward tale about their lives, they will require assistance creating one.

This is frequently done as a 'Life Story Book,' which should include the child's recollections and sentiments and a chronological account. Parents should be fully involved in this, rather than viewing it as direct individual work with the child; this allows the child and parents to share the child's history, aids in better understanding the child, and moves adopters closer to the role that parents typically play about their birth children, that of a memory bank' from which the child can draw when needed.


Adoption and fostering of children can significantly impact their development, with infant-adopted children having higher levels of difficulty than non-adoptees and foster children having higher rates of mental problems than other children. Maltreated children are at high risk of mental disorders due to abusive or negligent parents, neurological abnormalities, prenatal and neonatal stress, and neurobiological changes.

Mistreatment and challenges in connection and relationships are two areas of difficulty among later-adopted and foster children. Adoptive parents should be involved in collecting detailed information on the child's past and creating a 'Life Story Book' to share the child's history and aid in better understanding the child.

Updated on: 09-May-2023


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