My recent research focused on the mental health needs of adoptive parents, based on their ‘lived experiences’. It then proposed a framework of interventions that may be used by adoptive parents to support their mental health. The purpose of this site is to share the knowledge that I have acquired with an audience who may find it beneficial. While this site focusses on adoptive parents, it may also prove useful to foster carers, special guardians and to the parents of children with complex needs.
Since adopting my daughter, I have been increasingly interested in, and aware of challenges that people experience in relation to their mental health. In my professional world this work deals with the multitude of psychological, social and/or physical challenges that individuals face. The final element of my MSc program necessitated the completion of a dissertation and this expanded my knowledge of mental health into the field of academic research.
The majority of children who are adopted in the UK enter the care system as a result of abuse, neglect or family dysfunction (Department for Education, 2018). Considerable research exists on the potential effects of adverse childhood experiences and the profound impact developmental trauma has on the emotional, behavioural, cognitive, social and physical functioning of children. Surprisingly there is little information that exists about the impact of parenting this vulnerable group! As a researcher I am aware of this information; as an adoptive parent I had no knowledge.
In my role as a researcher I interviewed 7 adoptive parents who had responded to a local authority adoption newsletter; all had at least 1 adopted child who had been living with the family for one year or longer. The years since children were adopted ranged from 2 – 18 years, providing a broad range of parenting experience. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded. The following themes were the result of parent interviews and described their ‘lived experience’ of adoption:
- Loss of the ‘dream’ of a biological family
- Loss of their sense of ‘self’
- Feeling unprepared to parent their children
- Experiencing violence and abuse
- Fighting for justice
- Facing an uncertain future
- Suffering mental health problems
Over the coming months this site will explore these themes in more detail, highlighting existing research and practice and making recommendations regarding interventions that may help adoptive parents to improve their own mental health outcomes.