The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has established a UK-wide enquiry to consider the role of social work in adoption.
The questionnaire for the enquiry’s call for evidence is now online. Please read the associated briefing document and consent form before completing the questionnaire – to find out more about the purpose of the enquiry, what we are asking of you and how we will use and safeguard the information you give to us. We look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible. Please email your completed consent forms and questionnaires to: email@example.com
Policy developments across the four countries of the United Kingdom differ in the emphasis on adoption as a placement option for children for care. Whilst adoption can provide safe, secure and loving care for some children, the current focus has raised questions, particularly in relation to the non-consensual nature of many adoptions, and its promotion in the context of austerity and cuts to early help, and family support.
Social workers are central to the implementation of adoption policy. They are involved in initiating care proceedings, recommending adoption as a care plan, assessing adopters, matching children and providing post-adoption support. Much attention in social work has been focused on these ‘practice’ issues, and on meeting government-led targets and outcomes. There has been a relative absence of discussion within the profession of the issues of rights and ethics, in what is an increasingly contested and complex area of work.
Adoption entails a profound and permanent change for all those affected: adopted children and adults, birth parents and families, adoptive parents and families. Social workers have a central role in decisions that lead to adoption – in assessing and working with birth parents and with children, in recruiting and assessing adoptive parents, in matching and in post-adoption support. In most cases today, adoption is non-consensual and involves removing the rights and responsibilities of birth parents, and severing the relationship of a child with his or her birth parents and families, most of whom are among the most disadvantaged people in society. Adoption also bestows enormous responsibilities on adoptive families, which many families call for help and resources to meet after adoption orders have been made.
‘Ethical awareness is fundamental to the professional practice of social workers. Their ability and commitment to act ethically is an essential aspect of the quality of the service offered to those who engage with social workers. Respect for human rights and a commitment to promoting social justice are at the core of social work practice throughout the world.
Social workers have a responsibility to apply the professional values and principles … They should act with integrity and treat people with compassion, empathy and care.’
As the professional association representing social work and social workers it is incumbent on us to ask how should our professional values and ethics guide us in this work? How should our understanding of the unique and equal worth and human rights of everyone involved in an adoption guide us in working in an area where rights are contested and perhaps in conflict?
This enquiry will examine the role of the social worker in adoption, with a particular focus on how ethical issues and human rights legislation are understood and inform practice, and how these relate to pursuing good long-term outcomes for children and their families. It will gather evidence from families and young people involved in the adoption process, social workers and managers, family justice professionals, policy makers and academics using a variety of methods.
The enquiry is about ensuring the best outcomes and experiences for children in care and their families, not just today, but for generations to come.
Independent enquiry team
BASW has commissioned a distinguished independent enquiry team to conduct this work.
The team will be led by:
- Professor Brigid Featherstone PhD, MA Social and Community Work, BA (Hons), Dip Applied Social Studies, CQSW, University of Huddersfield, and
- Dr Anna Gupta PhD, MA in Child Protection Studies and BSW (distinction), BA (Hons), Senior Lecturer, Royal Holloway University of London.
Their work will be supported by an advisory group representing key voices and interests, including a birth parent, adult adoptee, adoptive parent, a senior member of the legal profession, and expert social work practitioners and academics.
The Enquiry will include:
- A number of one-day events will be held across the UK bringing together key stakeholders.
- Focus groups and individual interviews will be conducted with a range of interested parties
- Written submissions will be invited using the BASW website as well as other fora where appropriate
An end-of-enquiry report will be published containing a comprehensive literature review, the evidence considered and the findings of the enquiry.
The inquiry will commence in May 2016. For further information and to express an interest please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org