Adoption and disability project

How have you recently been involving parents in your work?

Many adopted children in England will have complex additional needs which may be unexpected for adoptive parents. This presents a range of challenges for families and the agencies involved with them.


We explored this area through a piece of independent research commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme, through the Children's Policy Research Unit.


Our project related to children who are adopted or in early permanence placements, and whose additional needs become apparent to parents during their child’s early years or transition into primary education. It aimed to understand:

  • why the needs of young children placed for adoption may be difficult to identify or understand
  • how prospective adopters are informed about children’s health and development before placement, and how they seek help if concerns arise after placement
  • the ways professionals and services respond to new concerns about the needs of young adopted children
  • ideas to improve support for young adopted children and their families.

The experiences and views of parents were central to this work. After some initial scoping of evidence, policy and practice, we asked individual parents about their experiences of relevant issues, and what changes they felt might improve support for families.


If you do involve parents, how do you do so and what has been the result?

Calls for parent and professional interviewees were disseminated through adoption- and disability-related networks, including the CDC newsletter. We interviewed six parents of eight adopted children whose diverse needs included autism, ADHD, learning difficulties and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Learning from these semi-structured interviews informed our approach to the rest of the project, including interviewing professionals and revisiting literature on key issues. 

Parents’ views and ideas are presented alongside those of professionals in a detailed research report. We have also produced a summary and a briefing to help practitioners, managers and strategic decision-makers understand the findings and recommendations. Findings from the project have been shared with the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care.


How do parent carers get involved with your work or ask questions/provide suggestions?

For more on this topic, parents can email, or read the publications from this project at

This NHS page explains the support available for adopted children with health conditions or additional needs, and for their families: