The reasons why young children are placed for adoption: Findings from a recently placed sample and implications for future identity issues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely accepted that the processing of identity issues can be problematic for some adopted children. Needing to know why placement for adoption was necessary is often central to adopted people’s identity concerns. Adoption practices have altered and children are now placed for adoption for different reasons and from different backgrounds than were children in the past. This study aims to present an up to date picture of the reasons why children are placed for adoption. Using information from questionnaires completed by social workers, the circumstances of a sample of 168 young (mean age at placement = 18 months), recently adopted children are examined. Children fall into three groups according to the reason for their adoption: relinquished infants (14%), those whose parents had requested adoption in complex circumstances (24%), and those children required to be adopted by social services and the courts (62%). Child and birthparent characteristics and openness arrangements are examined and are found to differ significantly between the three groups, indicating that children will have different types of information to appraise and differing capacities to make sense of their personal histories. Because of the multiplicity of difficulties in children’s backgrounds, it is concluded that resolving identity issues is likely to be challenging for many children, and professionals will need to take this into account when working with adopters and birth relatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303–316
Number of pages14
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • adoption
  • birthparents
  • identity
  • openness
  • relinquished infants
  • special needs adoption

Cite this