Australian Open Adoption Outcome research project

The first major research study by the Centre for Excellence in Open Adoption is a landmark research project into open adoption outcomes for more than 210 children and young people who have been adopted through Barnardos Australia over the past 30 years.  The Centre will study the impact of early decision making and the best ways to ensure contact with family of origin.

About the research
The aim of the research project is to study the very long-term outcomes of open adoption of children permanently removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect and placed permanently with a family. This retrospective study will particularly examine the impact of open adoption in which there is ongoing contact between the birth family and child.

An open adoption study 25 years has never before been undertaken in Australia. It will look at adoptees and their families and assess outcomes at various times of their lives, including adulthood. The research study will contribute to debate on the permanency outcomes for abused and neglected children internationally and in Australia.

Hypothesis:

  • Children, throughout their lives, highly value the experience of adoption when they have suffered significant abuse and neglect.
  • Children develop in all ways most effectively when in a secure loving environment with consistent adult nurturing.
  • Adoption is most effective when undertaken as early as possible for the child but that planning needs to be intensive and sequential.
  • Openness adds to the adjustment of the child and is particularly important in building a secure identity as an adopted person.

Research update - August 2016

The Barnardos’ Centre for Excellence in Open Adoption is still receiving questionnaires from adoptees and their families. From September 2016 people who have volunteered for interviews will be visited.

We are currently undertaking two research projects both of which are exploring the outcomes of open adoption for children adopted through the Find-a-Family program.

The first research project is the three year study into the Outcomes of Open Adoption, which is nearing completion of its first year, with the major focus of the past year being on planning and development.

This research will look at the outcomes of open adoption for 210 children who were adopted through Barnardos Find-a-Family program from 1 July 1987 to 30 June 2013.

Those involved are Professor Harriet Ward, Loughborough University (research consultant); Dr Tapan Rai, UTS (statistical analysis): Dr Sue Tregeagle (Senior Manager, Program Services); Elizabeth Cox and Lynne Moggach, as well as University of NSW and Sydney University Social Work students.

The research poses three main questions:

  • What are the life outcomes of children and young people who were adopted from care?
  • What contributes to positive outcomes of adoption?
  • What has been the effect of open adoption practice on these factors?

Wollongong study to be launched

The University of Wollongong Early Start Research Institute has presented its final report to the Centre. The report "I guess I was an accident first, but then I was chosen. Young Children's identity formation in the context of open adoption in NSW: An examination of optimal conditions for child well-being" is available for those interested in reading it. To get a copy please contact us on aoaoresearch@barnardos.org.au.

About the researchers

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Dr Susan Tregeagle
The research will be led by Dr Susan Tregeagle, Senior Manager – Program Services, Barnardos Australia.

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Lynne Moggach
Lynne Moggach has been Barnardos’ principle adoption officer over most of the past 25 years. She is a trained social worker and is in a unique position to undertake this research due to her long standing relationships with adoptive families.

Harriet Ward

Professor Harriet Ward
Barnardos Australia will partner with Professor Harriet Ward, internationally renowned research director and social policy advisor. Professor Harriet Ward is director of the Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) at Loughborough University, UK and co-director of the government funded Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre.  In addition, Harriet is responsible for the studies within the 'Safeguarding Children' theme.

Harriet has more than 20 years experience both as a research director and field researcher, as an adviser to policymakers and service providers. Her leadership of the Looking After Children program (1993-2001), from which much of the CCFR research program originally derived, has been a highly influential contribution to government policy and practice in the UK and abroad.