New directions in adoption

Hal poses with members of Barnardos

Presentation to Barnados Australia staff, Sydney August 28, 2019. L-R: Penny Hood (Executive Manager, People & Practice); Kerry Moore (Executive Manager, Executive Manager Safety & Prevention Regional/Rural NSW & ACT); Mel Andrews (Executive Manager Safety & Prevention Metropolitan NSW); Professor Hal Grotevant (UMass Amherst); Dr. Robert Urquhart (Head of Knowledge, Outcomes and Research); and Lisa Vihtonen (Operations Manager, Adoptions).

Hal speaking at podiumHal Grotevant, Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology, traveled to Sydney Australia in August 2019 to give a series of presentations and consult with university and private sector practice colleagues about new directions in adoption in the United States and in New South Wales.

Grotevant addressed a large gathering of practitioners involved in provision of out-of-home care and adoption through the major NGO, Barnardos Australia. His presentation, “Adoptive Kinship Networks: Maintaining Connections from Childhood to Adulthood,“ highlighted the implications of his team’s longitudinal research with adoptive families for new adoption practices in Australia, which mandate open adoptions for children adopted from the child welfare system. He also consulted with Barnardos colleagues on a series of challenging cases in their practice.

Grotevant was also the featured speaker at a Sydney Ideas Event, hosted by the University of Sydney and open to the public. Following this evening presentation, he engaged in an extended public conversation with Dr. Amy Conley Wright, director of the university’s Institute for Open Adoption Studies, a recently-funded unit within the School of Education and Social Work. The event attracted a wide range of attendees, including pro- and anti-adoption advocates, individuals with personal connections to adoption and foster care, researchers, and interested members of the community.  

Hal speaks in front of many peopleGrotevant presentation at the Sydney Ideas Event, hosted by the University of Sydney's Institute of Open Adoption Studies and open to the university community and the public

Grotevant’s final presentation was the keynote address at the university’s Research to Practice Forum: Relationships for Life. This day-long forum attracted researchers, governmental officials (including the New South Wales Minister for Families, Communities, and Disabilities), and staff of NGOs involved in the worlds of adoption and out-of-home care of children. The forum highlighted innovative practices in working with families providing adoption and foster care, as well as working with persons whose children have been removed from their care because of maltreatment.

Throughout all of these presentations, the importance of culturally sensitive practice was underscored; and acknowledgment of Australia’s difficult history with adoption, including an era of forced adoptions and generations of aboriginal children forcibly removed from their communities and placed with Anglo families ("the stolen generations"), was made. Participants in all of these events were interested to learn of the Rudd Program’s innovative efforts to make UMass Amherst an “adoption-friendly campus,” providing research training, coursework, and community-building activities for those interested in adoption.

View Hal Grotevant's presentation Adoptive Kinship Networks: Maintaining Connections from Childhood to Adulthood, filmed by Barnardos on 28 August 2019 at the Woolcock Institute, Sydney Australia.

The sector approach and community attitude to adoption in the USA is distinctly different to the NSW/ACT context. Hal’s presentation highlighted the need for an approach to adoption that encourages and supports openness and connection that is focused on a children’s needs as opposed to the needs of the adults that are around this child. -Toni Bolte, Permanency Practice Specialist

What I found beneficial from Hal’s presentation, was the ‘questions’ that children had at their different life stages in regards to their adoption. This was beneficial as I can have these conversations with my carers for things to expect as a child grows older and start exploring how they would answer this question in the most age appropriate manner. I also believe the ‘5 touch points for practice’ (Reframe family, commitment to relationship, emphasise that adults need to work together, listen carefully to child, and providing ongoing support) reiterated the importance of the role of the worker, and how to support our PAPs in forming positive and beneficial relationships with birth family. -Rebecca Allen, Case Manager Adoptions

Professor Grotevant’s seminar provided great learnings to me and a reminder that better outcomes for children are achieved when there is an experience of belonging and feelings of unconditional love. Open, honest communication is the key! Great seminar ! -Mary Haiek, Auburn Centre Manager