Skip to content
Home » Adopted children returning to care in Wales: Social worker perspectives

Adopted children returning to care in Wales: Social worker perspectives

Principal Investigators

Dr Rebecca Anthony and Prof Donald Forrester


Dr Sarah Thompson


Over 3000 UK children were placed for adoption from care during the year ending 31st March 2021 (Home for Good, 2021). Adoption is an option for children who cannot live with their birth parents. While adoption orders breaking down is fairly rare, the largest UK study of post adoption order breakdown estimated that 2.6% of adoptions in Wales broke down during a 12 year follow-up period (Selwyn and Meakings, 2015), children returning to care from adoption have a negative impact on the child, parent and social worker. Previous research tells us that an adoption disruption is more likely if a child has entered an adoption placement at an older age, the child has poor health, there are emotional and behavioural difficulties, there is a history of previous disruptions, there is birth family contact, there is a strong attachment to birth parents or there is child preferential rejection.

Aims and Objectives

As it has been over 10 years since relevant research in this area in Wales has been undertaken, this study aims to understand the current issues seen to lead to adoption breakdowns in Wales and identify areas professionals think may help to reduce these.

Study Design

We will employ a qualitative research approach in order to allow social work professionals to raise and discuss themes and topics they saw as relevant to the research questions. Semi-structured interviews asking open questions developed from the existing literature are to be conducted with service managers, head of children’s services, or staff responsible for overseeing adoption services from Welsh local authorities.

The interviews will be conducted in English by research assistants using online platforms (Zoom or Microsoft Teams), and it is anticipated they will take no longer than 60 minutes to complete. They will be recorded digitally. Interviewees will be provided with the interview transcript in advance to enable them time to look up relevant numbers and reflect on the questions. After competition of the interview the research assistants will complete a post-interview reflection sheet, recording all relevant information from the interview, any new or interesting information and quotes.

The interviews will explore the numbers of adopted children returning to care, the potential reasons for these children returning to care and things that could change to prevent instances of this in future. After competition of all interviews and post-interview reflections a process of inductive thematic analysis will be applied to the transcriptions to identify themes arising from the data.




St David’s Children’s Society