UK research evidence base indicates that there is no firm evidence base for adoption to be promoted as the most benign solution for foster children.

ENGLAND is held up as an example that Australia should be following to expand Adoption into Child Protection By the Pro adoption Lobby 

Extract from Fin Townsville submission (17) to the adoption inquiry quotes:

A Third important, issue is that adoption from statutory care should not be used as an avenue of supply for infertile couples and others looking to adopt. In this regard, FIN Townsville has been advised by Emeritus Professor June Thoburn, University of East Anglia, UK (November 2015):

“Beware of a policy that starts to look for babies for adopters rather than other way round. That is, if you start down the UK route of encouraging baby adopters to come forward, you have to start finding babies for them - and what then happens to your preventive and family support services?”

Additionally, what then happens to work to reunify children out of care back home with their own families?

Professor Thoburn adds a further concern:

“… beware of misinformation about the brain and an alleged ‘need’ to move children early if there is a possibility of neglect.”

She refers to the following article:

Wastell, D. and White S. (2012) Blinded by neuroscience: social policy, the family and the infant brain. Families, Relationships and Societies, Volume 1, Number 3, November pp.397-414


Current social policy initiatives are promoting early intervention to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. Neuroscientific evidence is prominent in this discourse, creating the lustre of science, but too much has been taken on trust. In particular, the argument that the first three years are critical has created a now-or-never imperative to intervene before irreparable damage is done to the developing infant brain.

A critique of current policy in the United Kingdom is provided here, drawing on counterarguments from the policy discourse in the United States during the 'decade of the brain', updated with more recent research findings. Overall, we show that the infant brain is not readily susceptible to permanent and irreversible damage from psychosocial deprivation. Rather, plasticity and resilience seem to be the general rule.

Inquiry into local adoption Submission 174

The co-option of neuroscience has medicalised policy discourse, silencing vital moral debate and pushing practice in the direction of standardised, targeted interventions rather than simpler forms of family and community support, which can yield more sustainable results.

Fourth, Professor Thoburn cautions that the outcomes for adoption are not nearly so good as claimed by its protagonists (see: Sammut J. (2015) The Madness of Child Protection: 

Why adoption will rescue Australia’s underclass children. USA: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd).

By contrast see, for example, Beth Neil’s work at the University of East Anglia:Neil E., Beek M. and Ward E. (2014). Contact after adoption. A longitudinal study of adopted young people and their adoptive parents and birth relatives. London: BAAF.

This longitudinal study shows that, even when placed under 2 years of age (and most even younger), less than half of those adopted from care were 'thriving' in adolescence and older. Moreover, the contact that young people had with their birth families (in open adoption) was usually not the reason why young people were doing well or not doing well - other reasons were more important.

A special note of caution relates to the adoption of children over the age of 4 years. These older children are the children most vulnerable to the unimaginable horror of adoption breakdown. For further evidence, see the work of Julie Selwyn, University of Bristol, who has found some very worrying behaviour in adopted young people in adolescence.

Selwyn Julie, Wijidasa Dinithi, and Meakings Sarah (2014) Beyond the adoption Order: Challenges, Interventions and Disruptions. London: Research Report. Department for Education.

In the view of FIN Townsville, this UK research evidence base indicates that there is no firm evidence base for adoption to be promoted as the most benign solution for children in need of care.

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