What happens in the making of an adoptive family? Rethinking matching in adoptions from care

Sims, Louise (2018) What happens in the making of an adoptive family? Rethinking matching in adoptions from care. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This study examines the confluence of practices that are generated when the state brings strangers together to make a brand new family. Concerns about matching, the process in which an adoptive family is made, are driving significant changes in the organisation of adoption services yet 'research evidence is lacking- not just sparse, but virtually absent' (Quinton, 2012, p.1). This study addresses these gaps and offers original empirical and conceptual contributions to the knowledge base. My approach draws on sociological and anthropological perspectives through which family life is understood as constructed through day-to-day activities, action, imagination and emotional interactions. This study focuses on the ‘doing’ of family and the ‘doing’ of social work to illuminate and analyse everyday practices.

The research design is original in the field and builds on innovative methodologies at the interface of pedagogy, practice and research. Through a psychoanalytically informed multi- modal ethnographic study I observed a single matching process in ‘real time’ over 9 months. This methodology afforded direct access to dyadic, familial, professional and organizational relationships in homes, offices, forums, in documents and in email correspondence. Group analytic practices were used to help access subjective and sociocultural dimensions. The data generated from these groups (which included adults adopted from care, adoptive parents, researchers, social workers and policy advisors) allowed the juxtaposition of contemporary matching practices with intergenerational perspectives. Collaborative processes brought a multiplicity of minds to the study helping maintain a recursive and critically reflective approach. This unique data-set provides an opportunity to consider matching through multiple lenses and as a lens through which to consider multiple practices.

This thesis makes four analytical claims. Firstly, I suggest that during a matching process intense emotional forces, multiple paradoxes and uncertainty converge, creating a ‘liminal hotspot’ (Greco and Stenner, 2017, p.147). For those directly involved, (including children, carers, prospective parents and professionals) navigating this space requires spatialized and temporalized strategies. In this study social work practices were found to function as necessary rites of passage, tools and processes which could also mitigate polarizing forces. Secondly, I suggest that matching is a site where work and non-work practices become entangled. In the midst of these entanglements those involved have to navigate ‘distinct cultures of child rearing’ (Thomson et al., 2011, p.4). In this context the role of the foster carer emerges as extraordinarily complex. Thirdly, this thesis claims that current powerful social projections and transformative processes are played out and become visible within matching practices. Matching practices are considered to be an epistemic lens into a matrix of tensions relating to care and authority.

Finally, this research suggests that reductions in welfare spending, increasing pressures on services and a policy pre-occupation with timeliness are undermining essential deliberative processes. This study found that this is a high risk situation; creating unnecessary vulnerability across a workforce, across multiple families and ultimately in the lives of children.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV0697 Protection, assistance and relief > HV0700 Special classes > HV0713 Children > HV0873 Destitute, neglected and abandoned children. Street children > HV0875 Adoption
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2018 15:02
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2018 15:02
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/80797

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