Continuity through openness towards child’s birth family in a foster-to-adopt setting: how foster-to-adopt parents’ and social workers’ perceptions collide

Geneviève Pagé, Researcher, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada 

Béatrice Decaluwe, Canada 

Doris Châteauneuf, Researcher CIUSSS-Capitale Nationale, Canada 

In Quebec, around 300 children are domestically adopted each year, most of the time through a foster-to-adopt program called “Banque-mixte”. These children, considered to be at high-risk of abandonment, are placed with foster-to-adopt parents who are willing to adopt them if they are legally freed for adoption. In the meantime, regular direct contact may occur between the child and the birth parents, which creates an opportunity for foster-to-adopt parents to meet the birth parents when they bring the child to these visits. While literature demonstrates the positive effects of communicative openness in adoption for the child’s development and a sense of continuity in his identity construction (Brodzinsky, 2005, 2006; Rosnati; 2005; Wolfgram, 2008), little is known about how uncertainty of being able to adopt the child, contact with the birth parents in this context, and social workers’ attitudes may influence the foster-to-adopt parents’ level of openness. Within a qualitative study including 16 cases of foster-to-adopt placements, three different profiles of openness were identified for foster-to-adopt parents (forced openness/closed attitude; limited openness/passive attitude; strongly affirmed openness/proactive attitude). Social workers attitudes towards openness were also analyzed. The main characteristics of the foster-to-adopt parents’ profiles will be discussed in order to underline the tensions that may occur between foster-to-adopt parents and social workers. Implications for practice and a need for better support for foster-to-adopt parents will be further discussed.

Key-words: foster-to-adopt, openness, social workers’ attitude

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