UEA – Moving to Adoption

  • FosterWiki
  • Author:FosterWiki
  • Published:June 2023
  • Country: United Kingdom

UEA Moving to Adoption

The UEA Moving to Adoption model

The UEA Moving to Adoption model: a guide for adoption social workers, fostering social workers, children’s social workers and foster carers.

A child’s journey through care can involve many caregivers and multiple transitions. It is crucial to their development, sense of self, mental health and futures that we take great care in those transitions and the long term connection and maintenance of the significant relationships in their lives.

In the transition from foster care to adoption we are finding many services still following outdated cliff edge transitions where bonds are suddenly severed under a model of ‘10 weeks to settle in’ where the children are suddenly removed and have no contact with their ex foster carers, people who have been de facto mummy and daddies, often for years.

There is no research to evidence these models, they quite simply continue on the ‘this is how we have always done it’ premise. Children find themselves suddenly removed from foster carers, often to never to see them again. This is re-traumatising, and with many too young to verbalise or express their grief and loss it embeds life long attachment issues and trauma wounds that are hard to heal.

We feel it is now time to implement and fully embed the UEA moving to adoption model across all local authorities to minimise the impact of these transitions and maintain precious bonds and attachments that are the golden thread that run through our children’s lives.

Sarah Anderson, Founder, FosterWiki

Introduction to UEA Moving to Adoption model.

When children cannot safely return home from foster care, adoption provides legal security, love and belonging in a new family.

However, the child’s move to adoption can also involve the loss of key relationships with birth family members and foster family members as well as their social and cultural identities as part of those families. It is important that social work practice places the child’s emotional needs at the centre, whilst also supporting the foster carers and the prospective adoptive parents.

In traditional practice, the move to adoption typically takes place in 5 – 14 days, according to the age of the child. After the move, children often do not see their foster carers again for 6 – 12 weeks and for some there is no further contact, although some adopters choose to remain in touch.

There have been concerns regarding this practice model. Research (Selwyn, 2015, Neil, Young and Hartley, 2018) shows that in some cases, these rather abrupt moves are distressing for children and for adopters and foster carers.

In these cases, there may be links to poorer child outcomes and even disruption. Professionals have expressed uncertainty about how to plan and support these moves in a more child focused way.

From 2016 – 2018, therefore, a practice development project (Moving to adoption: a practice development project: Research Briefing Neil, E, Beek, M & Schofield, G (2018) Centre for Research on Children and Families, UEA), funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, took place at the Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia, UK. The research team was Elsbeth Neil, Mary Beek and Gillian Schofield.

Two local authorities (Norfolk County Council and the London Borough of Southwark) worked in partnership with the UEA research team to pilot an adapted approach to moving children to adoption.

We have drawn on their experiences, and the feedback received from the foster carers and adopters involved in the project to develop the UEA Moving to Adoption model for supporting children’s moves to adoption.

An introduction to the UEA Moving to Adoption model by Professor Beth Neil

The UEA Moving to Adoption model.

The UEA model outlines three key stages of the move, as follows:

  • Stage 1: Getting to know each other.
  • Stage 2: Making the move.
  • Stage 3: Supporting relationships after the move.

The UEA model is not prescriptive about timescales or the details of planning for each of these stages. Rather, it suggests six key principles that should be held in mind and applied flexibly according to individual needs and the particular circumstances of each move.

The key principles of the UEA Moving to Adoption model

The University of East Anglia Moving to Adoption model suggests six important principles to consider when moving a child to adoption:

The key principles:

  • Opportunities for the foster carers and adopters to build a positive relationship should be promoted at an early stage in the moving process, as this is helpful to the success of the move.
  • The child and the adopters should be given opportunities to become familiar with each other though play and observation prior to adopters undertaking any caregiving tasks.
  • All arrangements and timescales should focus on the needs of the child.
  • The child’s feelings about the move should be held in mind and responded to sensitively.
  • Some continuity of foster family relationships and environment will support the child in managing the loss of the foster family and building trust in the adoptive family.
  • There should be flexibility in the planning, in consultation with the child, the families and the social workers, to allow for emerging circumstances and needs.

The three stages of the UEA model, and the principles that guide them are explored below. Each stage is described in terms of its aims and objectives, the events that may occur within it and the roles of the professionals involved. Case examples from a range of sources, including a foster carer diary, are provided to illustrate each of the stages.

Stage 1

Secure Base Checklist 0-18 months.

Download here

Stage 2

Secure Base Checklist 18 months – 4 years.

Download here

Stage 3

Secure Base Checklist 5 – 10 years olds.

Download here

Read further information on the 3 stages with case studies here: https://www.movingtoadoption.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Moving-to-Adoption-Practice-Programme-2020-NEW.pdf

[Neil, E., Beek, M, & Schofield, G. (2020) The UEA Moving to Adoption model: a guide for adoption social workers, fostering social workers and children’s social workers. Norwich: University of East Anglia, Centre for Research on Children and Families.]

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Adoption Beth Neil Child Adoption Moving to adoption UEA

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