Evaluation of adoption practice in Scotland
Triseliotis, John Paul
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3coue and Purposes To obtain an accurate description of current adoption practice, to evaluate its validity and answer a number of subsidiary questions. Samplet This consisted of: (i) Twenty Sheriff Courts; (ii) twelve adoption agencies; and (iii) a postal questionnjire. Methodology; a. ;'©scriplives Basic data and information were obtained from the case records of adoption agencies and the courts, and were supplemented by information gained from answers to the questionnaire, b. Eva^qative; The accepted standards and criteria of the social work profession, research findings and the legal framework were U3ed to appraise practice. PWinftg Irrespective of fluctuations in the number of illegitimate children born annually, the rate of surrender has remained consstant since 1995* The number of adoptions contracted each year is still determined by the surrendering habits of single mothers, A high rate of surrender was noted among the more educated type of mother and certain other characteristics suggested themselves as influencing the adoption decision and its timing# The majority of mothers received no casework help from the agencies through which they surrendered the children and little reality was injected into the surrendering process. Though adoption work requires continuous assessments, observations and decision-making, it was carried out by the least trained workers in the social work field. The range of observations, thinking and acting was very limited compared to social work expectations and the respective merit of a range of possible activities were not considered. A major part of practice, including the assessment of children and the selection of adoptive applicants, was based on expediency, intuition, personal beliefs and prejudices and it did not reflect any organised body of knowledge or any discernible method. Because of this, the consumers of the service were placed at a consider¬ able disadvantage. Certain other aspects of practice were a negation of fundamental social work principles and of basic child welfare concepts. Dysfunction could result in children and adopters from this approach. The expertise that is generally claimed*to go into agency placements has been greatly exaggerated. Agency programmes were generally geared towards the adoption of young, healthy infants and to the rejection of older, handicapped/ children or those of "poor" background. Adopters for "hard-to-place" children were mostly selected on the principle of "less eligibility" which resulted in the placement of the more marginal children with the mora marginal adopters. The amount of physical and human resources, available to each agency, was only one factor that appeared to influence the quality and amount of service given, More important'appeared to be the attitude towards the use of resources, the way the agency was organised and the kind of policies and programmes it pursued. Resources were under-used or over-used, either because of the absence of any coherent policy or through adherence to rigid outmoded concepts. Three important agents, i.e. the supervising officer, the curator ad litem and the Sheriff, all charged with the respons¬ ibility of safeguarding the interests of the child, lacked conviction about the importance of their role. The .multiplicity of individuals and bodies involved in the process, far from ensuring the child's welfare, seemed to create a false sense of security. Each one of these agents or agencies acted independently and without consultation with the other and too much was assumed all round that was not justified by actual events. The Court decisions were generally reached in an impersonal, routine way and with only a limited range of concrete factors influencing the decision. The various courts approached the matter of reclaim by mothers,and of adoptions by relatives, in widely differing ways. In conclusion, with few exceptions, it is too early yet to talk of any organised adoption work being done on practice principles and being influenced by a wider body of knowledge. Though the study points towards a number of necessary legal changes, major improvements can only come from within the agencies themselves. Finally, the findings highlight the importance of practice-studies preceding, taking place alongside, studies in outcome.