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
Harriet Ward is Research Professor at Loughborough University, UK.  She founded Loughborough’s Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) in 2002 and directed it until she stepped down in April 2014. Between 2010 and 2015 she was also co-director of the government-funded Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre – a partnership between the Institute of Education, University of London, Loughborough University and PSSRU, University of Kent. She has over 30 years of experience both as a research director and field researcher, as an adviser to policymakers and service providers, and as a social work practitioner. She was awarded a CBE for services to children and families in June 2012.

Harriet’s research focusses on the relationship between the state and the family both now and in the past. Previous studies include the development and piloting of a methodology for assessing outcomes of local authority care (the Looking After Children Project); studies of the relationship between costs and  outcomes in children’s services and an empirical study of the experiences of children who entered the Waifs and Strays Society (Children’s Society) in the nineteenth century.  Current research studies include an eight year prospective longitudinal study of children identified in infancy as likely to suffer significant harm, a major study (with Barnardo’s Australia) of outcomes of open adoption in New South Wales and a scoping study for the development of a family justice observatory (led by Lancaster University). Findings from this research programme have underpinned developments in policy and practice concerning child protection, looked after children and adoption in the UK, the USA, Australia and parts of Europe.