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Birth fathers of children adopted after care proceedings project A small qualitative pilot study by John Clifton.

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Presentation on theme: "Birth fathers of children adopted after care proceedings project A small qualitative pilot study by John Clifton."— Presentation transcript:

1 Birth fathers of children adopted after care proceedings project A small qualitative pilot study by John Clifton

2 Why this project? [1] Most children now adopted after court proceedings Social workers have difficulty engaging parents especially fathers Some evidence fathers feel their perspectives are not heard

3 Why this project? [2] Best practice to enhance childs identity is usually to work with fathers Adoption agencies have duty to support for birth relatives Local authorities now have a gender equality duty to consider the equal but different needs of men and women

4 Why this project? [3] Childrens services typically centred on the needs of women and children Deficit thinking common regarding fathers [OBrien 2004] references references What clues do we have about birth father perspectives? Aim: benefiting their children

5 Origins of the project Portfolio for MA Essay for International Perspectives unit compared UK and South African men Reflection on previous practice Parents attending panels Own experience as a father

6 The literature [1] Comparatively few studies of birth fathers of adopted children Main UK studies [Clapton 2003; Witney 2005] research fathers of children relinquished in past decades Previous adoption paradigm References

7 The literature [2] Samples through adoption support voluntaries and Adoption Contact Register Show fathers ongoing distress and concern for their children similar to birth mothers Literature review

8 Assumptions about research and practice [1] Men [even perpetrators of harm to children] can be engaged with purposefully Central focus must be childs best interests Safety of women partners and workers important [Daniel and Taylor 2001 p9] References

9 Assumptions about research and practice [2] Fathers matter to children in various ways: e.g. carers, providers, sources of identity In adoption, identity often a central issue for adopted people Information about birth fathers often missing Records often do not contain birth fathers part of adoption narrative literature reviewliterature review

10 The research question What perspectives do birth fathers of children adopted from care have in relation to their childs adoption? Definitions

11 Why qualitative approach taken [1] Comparative paucity of information Unable to confidently predict their key issues Need to build rapport and trust Approach needs to maximise chances that they will consent

12 Why qualitative approach taken [2] Openness to hearing their perspectives Quantitative approach inappropriate: Obtaining a large sample impractical and.. Clear variables for hypothesis construction cannot be identified

13 Project design Grounded theory [Strauss & Corbin 1998] referencereference Sample size of 3-5 subjects Conduct in depth interviews with mostly open questions flowing from research question Analyse by successive codings to derive middle range explanatory theory about subjects perspectives

14 Sample – child cohort [1] Fathers recruited from Suffolk children looked after placed for adoption or adopted between 1 April 2005 & 27 February 2007 n=162 children of which- 156 [96%] subject to care order/ freeing/ or placement order 6 [4%] relinquished for adoption following accommodation

15 Sample – child cohort [2] Of the 156 children adopted or placed after a court order 99 [63%] were adopted 57 [37%] were placed for adoption Identity of children and social workers obtained from adoption agency CHARMS database

16 Sample – fathers referral process [1] Social workers asked to consider all fathers on the list Social worker/ manager must agree approach to potential subject Initial approach by social worker, manager or researcher Then by researcher phone call & letter letter

17 Sample – fathers referral process [2] Subjects ruled out where there was risk of violence or disruption of childs placement Agreed subjects ruled out where family in subsequent care proceedings or in crisis Pros and cons of relying on insider access and making contact through social workers

18 Sample - reasons for exclusion n Father identity unknown12 Father cannot be traced12 Father deceased4 Father imprisoned5 Risk of violence or tracing4 Father refused2 No social worker7 Current crisis/care proceedings6 Other3

19 Sample – fathers referral process [3] Social workers mostly very helpful and interested but some too busy Where high staff turnover parents out of touch [especially fathers] within 1-2 years A few comments suggesting negative stereotyping of fathers or gender blindness [Daniel & Taylor 2001 p 220] referencereference

20 Sample – Staff comments Social work manager: I dont agree with the basic premise of your research…fathers get exactly the same treatment as everyone else. Social worker: I dont know why you want to talk to him - hes a confirmed drug addict.

21 Sample – obtaining subjects Great persistence and flexibility needed to locate subjects and encourage them to participate Several no shows for agreed interviews at social services offices Therefore, all but one subjects interviewed in their own homes

22 Sample – profiles of subjects [1] Late 20s. White British. Living with partner [mother of child adopted] at parents home. Employment scheme. No further children Early 30s. Mixed heritage. Living in temporary accommodation. Separated from childs mother. Not working. No other children. Problematic history of adoption.

23 Sample – profiles of subjects [2] Mid 30s. White British. Living with new partner and her children and their child. Full time work. Late 40s. White British. Living with wife [mother of children adopted]. Full time work. All their children either adopted or permanently fostered.

24 Sample – profiles of subjects [3] Early 60s. White British. Living with wife [mother of children adopted]. Disabled by serious stroke. All their children either adopted or permanently fostered.

25 Data collection [1] In depth interviews of about 1 hour Opening question: When you look back now about your childs adoption what things come to mind? Informant encouraged to develop and expand answers & open new areas

26 Data collection [2] Subsidiary questions as prompts Topics: Involvement in decision making Fairness issues Effects on father of childs adoption Possibility of future contact Adoption support Questions

27 Data collection [3] Interviews audiotaped Transcribed verbatim Imported into qualitative research programme Nvivo for analysis

28 Data analysis Each script open coded Open codes defined Possible categories identified through axial coding Develop key categories from which theory may be developed

29 Interim results [1] All data [5 scripts] open coded using Nvivo exampleexample 302 open codes identified listlist Codes organised in trees for ease of access Selected open codes defined example example Memos and diagrams to develop categories memomemo

30 Interim results [2] Insufficient time to complete formal category development Interim findings based upon: Some category development Summarising and selecting themes frequently mentioned or given emphasis by subjects &.. informed by research question

31 Interim results [3] Perspectives related to father attributes Fathers in family during care proceedings [3] Father in forced accommodation case [1] Father out of family during care proceedings [1]

32 Interim findings on fathers perspectives Feelings of loss Experience of exclusion Focus on possible future meeting Rationalisations Coping strategies Is support acceptable? The delight and pain of letterbox contact

33 Feelings of loss [1] Acute sense of loss anger and distress Two considered suicide Double loss of child and partner Ongoing yearning for the child Comparisons with bereavement

34 Feelings of loss [2] Acute distress, anger and sadness Yes, it's all sort of come at... collapsed together. It's like a balloon. You can't -- if you pop a balloon, it all pops and goes down, not just half of it. The lot goes down together -- collapsed together. When I eventually realised that I haven't got my children to m -- me my life was just finished.... more

35 Feelings of loss [3] Two considered suicide I really felt like killing myself to be honest with you. And I never would, but thats how I felt. more

36 Feelings of loss [4] The possible double whammy of losing partner and child...I was so distraught when I lost the both of them.

37 Feelings of loss [5] Continual yearning and concern for adopted child I think about him every day. …I've got a son out there somewhere. Thats all I know. I've got one out there somewhere. He could be…three streets away; he could be miles away. I just dont know where he is.

38 Feelings of loss [6] Compared to bereavement Worse for some… To--- to realise that you've lost a part of your life. Your children are parts of your life. By taking a child they gently they've.. well...em... what do you call it, tightening the n- round your throat... …the way I was thinking about it since my dad died: that was painful, but losing my son was even worse.

39 Feelings of loss [7] …than for others: Its not as extreme as if you lose someone through death. But then, in a way, if you think of it along them terms, its a fact. I wouldnt say its a bereavement but its a bereavement of a s-sort.

40 Feelings of loss [8] Feelings may change over time Thats like when my dad died, I talk about how I felt then; how I feel now about it. Same as S: how I felt then; how I feel now; how I might feel in the future.

41 Feelings of loss [9] For some, pain diminishes: Most of the pain has gone and that but I'll still-I'll always have a bit there

42 Feelings of loss [10] Strongest sense of loss & guilt for father out of family I blame myself every day [unclear]. That-that-that is my fault. He's not here. I couldve-I couldve made the decision for him to stay here. But would he have been happy? I know he's happy where he is. Thats not very sort of-thats not very good for me …but…I'm happy- deep down I'm happy because… he's happy…

43 Experience of exclusion [1] Deficit thinking Assessment a closed process Being subordinated Disadvantaged in meetings Fathers unequal to mothers Odds against in care proceedings Exception: out of family father

44 Experience of exclusion [2] Deficit thinking …all they did really was ignore most of the good and take the bad which – that's not the way to do it. We barely did a bad thing wrong but they accused us that we did.

45 Experience of exclusion [3] Assessment a closed process I wanted to see him as much as I could 'cos basically we knew the circumstances and what was going to happen.

46 Experience of exclusion [4] Being subordinated to social services And each parent has their own way of bring up a kid but-we had to do it their way, which, anyone knows that's not going to work. You have your own techniques but nah! You had to use their rules. We couldn't. Basically, it was their rules or fail straight away.

47 Experience of exclusion [5] Disadvantaged in meetings Then, they go round, say things and that like: what could be done and that and how you felt and the-they asked me and that-pfff!-that 's when I kicked off 'cos… that's the only time they really wanted me to talk…is when they ask my point of it. And it's like, well…I'm blatantly-I'm the kid's dad, yeah. I'm involved in this kind of stuff. But they made me not… involved with it. MoreMore

48 Experience of exclusion [6] The odds stacked against the birth father in care proceedings When they-not in these words-but they basically said "go to court, fight a losing battle or sign the papers". Not them sort of words and that but that was the worst moment that... signing the papers for adoption and that. I cried all day believe it or not. moremore

49 Focus on possible future meeting [1] A longed-for future event Preparing for it Wanting to set the record straight Worry about how the meeting will go Will child reject father? Hedging bets

50 Focus on possible future meeting [2] A longed-for future event I'm wishing my life away to the day he comes…and he knocks at the door…… all I'm hoping for is…the day he knocks on the door. Thats all I'm aiming for in life. More

51 Focus on possible future meeting [3] Preparing for it But I've just got to work through it and thats my aim. Then I can express my feelings to people and that and then they should understand them and give me advice: like, what I could have done; what I could do in the future if he comes knocking and everything.

52 Focus on possible future meeting [4] Wanting to set the record straight But I'm hoping he'll sit down and let me explain it, and then, take him for a beer or whatever, go for a kick about-do the stuff I couldn't do. More

53 Focus on possible future meeting [5] Worry about how the meeting will go I dont know how I'm going to react if T ever knocks on the door…you know. I know what I want to do. I wanna, yknow… bring him in give him a cuddle…tell him how much I love him. But when I see him, I dont know what I'm going to do. I might-for all I know I could slam the door in his face and go: who are you? What are you doing?

54 Focus on possible future meeting [6] Will child reject father? I dont know. I dont know. I honestly dont know. I just-theres something there where…he's just not going to want to come and see me 'cos of what I've done more

55 Focus on possible future meeting [7] Hedging bets We havent given it any thought. I mean obviously we do the letterbox contact and whatnot and then if they decide yes, we want to…meet…mum and dad, then thats a decision they have got to make when they [emphasis] are 18.

56 Rationalisations [1] My children werent really abused...not like some Its best for the child not to fight Bargaining Refusing to say goodbye

57 Rationalisations [2] My children werent really abused...not like some Er...its... allright for the children that have been abused by their parents and been...em... battered by their parents but otherwise the adoptions business is a very bad thing for the fathers who hasn't abused their children.

58 Rationalisations [3] There's worse off children out there and the social services dont even get involved. Then you get good people like me and L [partner's name] which- yeah we've had bad stuff happen, [unclear] done some stupid stuff... and we go through hell basically which I really think that is unfair 'cos you get people out there what batter their kids and they still get to keep them

59 Rationalisations [4] Its best for the child not to fight Y'know: Why did it happen? Why didnt you fight it? Was-would be the u-the usual-well: Why didnt you let it go to court? Why didnt you fight it? So, whats the point of that because…they're going to win and what are you doing? You thinking of yourself [emphasis] or you thinking of the kids. And…if the children sense there's a problem they're gonna-they're gonna pick up-its going to affect them [emphasis].

60 Rationalisations [5] Bargaining One-one of the key stipulations we had with this was, was 'cos there was two had been fostered; two been adopted: that they must have sibling contact.

61 Rationalisations [6] Refusing to say goodbye It took one signature and for E just to give Up on A and I said: no, I'm not going to, because I'm not going to say goodbye to her. Y'know, I didnt meet the family- the adoptive parents for that very reason-I didnt want to say goodbye to her.

62 Coping strategies [1] To withdraw from the fight Just get on with it Blocking out the memories Making changes for the childs sake Knuckling down to work Managing feelings differently

63 Coping strategies [2] To withdraw from the fight [Unclear] I'm glad... well I'm not glad.....glad I don't have to deal with them no more. It could have got dragged through the court that I said "no, I've had too much pain. I'm not having more". Um.... I can't think of anything else. Just, how much it hurt.

64 Coping strategies [3] Just get on with it So I just live day by day; take what comes and thank the Lord that I still am here that day. Just get on with it. [unclear] I go to work; I've got me kids here; got me girlfriend: Get on with it. If I keep myself busy…em…I dont-I dont sort of-I dont get into the point where I'm thinking about him-ah, I'm thinking about him all the time but I dont get to the point where I'm getting depressed about it…but I do miss him.

65 Coping strategies [4] Blocking out the memories Q: Was there anything that helps you to think positively about your children? Is there anything that helps you get through, get through the day? A: I blank -- blank it out my mind....... I very rarely look up there [looks up at pictures of adopted children] I very rarely set up on that -- look up on that wall. I block it out.. [Long pause]...

66 Coping strategies [5] Making changes for the childs sake All I think about is what would it be like if he was here. What would we be doing? Where would we be and what job would I have? I just-makes me want to change like-do it all [emphasis]-but without him. You just get upset most of the time about it. I think I …cant be getting upset. I need to be strong-I need to…look to the future…and thats what I do. MoreMore

67 Coping strategies [6] Knuckling down to work I've knuckled down, trying to get a job now but at first I wouldn't….. I think that was just down to being lazy… and now I realise that I've got to get a job, get some income and that, get my own house, provide for we'll have more children. MoreMore

68 Coping strategies [7] Managing feelings differently I wish I could blah blah. I'm not sounding girly but I wish I could and that….. But its something I've got to work on as…myself and that. I've got to conquer that fear of talking about me emotions and stuff.

69 Coping strategies [8] Managing feelings differently contd I'm not a very open person. Em…oh, I'd rather keep things bottled up. Then when they do sort of come out, it comes out the wrong way. I get angry [emphasis] …and its not with anyone- its with myself.

70 Is support acceptable? [1] Thoughts about accepting help Counselling an unacceptable model Wanting to meet other birth fathers

71 Is support acceptable? [2] Thoughts about accepting help I'm always getting told off for it by-by my girlfriend, she's always saying: ask for help; ask for something; do something; get something done about it. I just can't ask for help. I dont-I dont mean to do it but I push people away when I'm doing something because… thats mine-its my thing; I'm doing it and I want to do it right… em…and I just get angry. More

72 Is support acceptable? [3] Counselling an unacceptable model I dont…em... have experience with counselling [unclear] I got the blame for everything that happened to me and I werent happy. I thought well was it my fault? [unclear] but I'm supposed to talk. I know it wasnt my fault but then get the blame for it. Why do I want to go back and go for more counselling?

73 Is support acceptable? [4] Wanting to meet other birth fathers …they're going through it. Like I said, learning from their mistakes; give advice what to do if theyve done something wrong. And thats basically it: just have support from other dads whats had it done.

74 Is support acceptable? [5] Wanting to meet other birth fathers [continued] The way you do it! Sitting down, getting the information, speaking to two or three different people and as-as-if you had four people sitting round this table and we all discuss it.

75 The delight and pain of letterbox contact [1] Letters and photos much valued- photos particularly Some suspicion of adopters Reply letters agonisingly difficult to write Longing for live interaction

76 The delight and pain of letterbox contact [2] Letters and photos much valued- photos particularly We read the letter and that and pulled out the picture. L started crying. Just… the pure shock of knowing he's-he looked totally different. He looked a lot-he looked a lot happier…having the time of his life and the best life possible

77 The delight and pain of letterbox contact [3] Some suspicion of adopters I think what happens a lot, happens like my children (the little boys there) [points at photo of his children who were adopted]. They'd been adopted, they are C and L [names his children]. I've got a feeling the same thing' s happens now that they washed, yes brainwashed to make other people -- the other people -- are its parents and not.. not us sort of thing.

78 The delight and pain of letterbox contact [4] Reply letters agonisingly difficult to write …I find it hard [emphasis] writing back, it is… I can talk [emphasis] …em…having a conversation, but writing it down-I know what I want to say up here [points to head]. Soon as I write it down on paper- that doesnt-its exactly the same as what was in my head but it doesnt look or sound right.

79 The delight and pain of letterbox contact [5] Longing for live interaction All I've seen is a picture that catches that one moment but… what led up to it? What happened afterwards? Thats- thats-thats what's not fair….. I'd like to sort of have it on the web cam. If I could get their email address-I-if it was allowed [emphasis], I'd have their email address and say right, OK, can we speak to him today, 'cos then…em... the other kids could see him and they can see-they ca- see and I can see-with a picture you catch that one moment.

80 Subjects offline comments [1] One subject sought advice on tracing his own adoptive mother One discussed difficulty explaining feelings to partner One expressed isolation and desire to meet other fathers

81 Subjects offline comments [2] One offered support to other fathers All wanted feedback on results 4/5 said they would like to hear feedback as a group All but one wanted transcript

82 Discussion – feelings of loss [1] Echoes previous findings: Birth mothers (Bouchier et al 1991) Birth fathers of relinquished children (Clapton 2003; Witney 2005) Birth parents have profound and continuing grief reactions and continue to worry about their children

83 Discussion - feelings of loss [2] Differences in circumstances: Care proceedings & Closeness to separation dont seem to make much difference Questions: does anger/ contention change grieving? Does modern relinquishment make parting harder to bear?

84 Discussion – experience of exclusion [1] Parallels with Mason and Selman [1997] MoreMore Birth fathers involved in care proceedings feel overwhelmed by powerful forces Some hints about improving that experience at the margins- empowerment at meetings; status respect; more men in workforce

85 Discussion – focus on possible future meeting Hugely important issue for these fathers and preoccupies them Men and adoption contact – historical comparisons Now, most adoptions have a letterbox arrangement Living parallel lives Living on hold Fluctuating expectations

86 Discussion – is support acceptable? Will talk about feelings in the right context Counselling model not acceptable Fathers need highly proactive outreach They stress advice giving and receiving- helping others! Want to meet other fathers

87 Discussion – Letterbox Fathers want more interactive forms of contact Photos much valued…. Then news Return letters agonisingly difficult to write Consider innovation using technologies? DVDs/webcams etc

88 Discussion – beyond description to explanation [1] Grounded theory is meant to move beyond description to explanation - predictive Use of literature, memoing, for constant comparison Suggesting areas for category development & theoretical sampling

89 Discussion – beyond description to explanation [2] Comparison from chronically ill men study by Charmaz [1994] Similarities in the men and the challenge faced How do these men cope with life changing crises Crises threaten mens taken for granted masculine identities

90 Discussion – beyond description to explanation [3] Identity dilemmas: Risking activity vs. forced passivity Remaining independent vs. becoming dependent Maintaining dominance vs. becoming subordinate Preserving a public persona vs. acknowledging private feelings

91 Discussion – beyond description to explanation [4] Questioning masculine identity Connell [1995]: decline of hegemonic masculinity Many masculinities instead Where are our birth fathers in spectrum? Informs key responses? Consider data re expression of feelings/ partner empathy/ kicking off/ being absent/ children werent really abused etc

92 Discussion- typologies [5] Typologies of birth fathers would help commissioningTypologies Trial of practice initiatives aimed at particular sub groups Starting with most accessible and moving out Evolving practice knowledge and skills

93 How to take the study forward [1] More formal category development Sensitisation to new issues Describe findings to existing subjects and obtain feedback Increase sample quantity Sample theoretically to test emerging theory

94 How to take the study forward [2] Seek fathers with particular attributes: e.g. ethnic minorities; prisoners Sample through other sources: via media advertising; prison service; voluntary organisations; etc Develop typologies

95 Practice & policy pointers [1] Much more care is taken to identify and engage fathers Where teams are in flux knowledge of and contact with fathers disappears quickly Databases and records dont always capture precious father information Still significant minority of children lose birth fathers

96 Practice & policy pointers [2] Few social workers/ managers are openly dismissive of birth fathers But…little evidence of a gendered approach to safeguarding or adoption issues Additional training for social workers/ managers to equip them for their key role

97 Practice & policy pointers [3] No adoption support services there which make sense to fathers CSCICSCI Fathers profoundly affected by their childs adoption Fathers deserve a service in their own right and for childrens sake Traditional counselling model inappropriate (counselling skills still apply)

98 Practice & policy pointers [4] Need to provide tailored adoption support for fathers Approach must be highly proactive- outreach not in-drag Look at father-inclusive practice across the board top 10 tipstop 10 tips New Gender Equality Duty requires action moremore

99 Recommendations [1] Audit services for father friendliness Workshops to support better practice with fathers Appoint birth family workers More relevant regional adoption support

100 Recommendations [2] Capture key information about each father early Adapt databases to aid service planning for fathers Improve the gender equality plan to include fathers More research into fathers perspectives

101 References – working with fathers in practice Burgess, A and Bartlett, D Working with fathers Fathers Direct Daniel, B & Taylor, J Engaging with fathers Jessica Kingsley 2001 Equal Opportunities Commission website Fathers Direct website – Featherstone, Brid; Rivett, Mark; and Scourfield, Jonathan (2007) Working with men in health and social care Sage London.

102 References – research Charmaz, Kathy Identity dilemmas of chronically ill men in Strauss, A & Corbin, J [eds] Grounded theory in practice Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Clapton, Gary (2003) Birth Fathers and their Adoption Experiences Jessica Kingsley, London. Clapton, Gary (2007) The experiences and needs of birth fathers in adoption: what we know now and some practice implications Practice 19 (1) March 2007 pages 61-71. CSCI (2006)Adoption: messages from inspections of adoption agencies Flouri, E (2005) Fathering and child outcomes John Wiley and Son, Chichester. Haralambos, M & Holborn, M (2004) Sociology: themes and perspectives HarperCollins London.

103 References – research Mason, Kathy & Selman, Peter (1997) Birth parents experience of contested adoption Adoption and Fostering 21 (1) 21-28. Melrose, M (2000) Fixing it: young people drugs and disadvantage Russell House Publishing Lyme Regis. Melrose M and Dean H (1996) Unravelling citizenship: the significance of social security benefit fraud Critical Social Policy 16 (3). Strauss, A and Corbin, J (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory Sage, London. Witney, Celia (2005) Over half a million fathers: An exploration into the experiences of fathers involved in adoption in the mid 20 th century in England and Wales Journal of Social Work 5 (1) 83-99.

104 Contents Why this project Origins of project Literature Assumptions Research question Why Qualitative approach Project design Sample - child cohort Sample - fathers referral process Sample - reasons for exclusion Sample – staff comments Sample – getting subjects Profiles of subjects Data collection Data analysis Interim results Interim findings summary Feelings of loss Experience of exclusion Focus on possible future meeting Rationalisations Coping strategies Is support acceptable? Letterbox contact Subjects offline comments Discussion How to take study forward Practice and policy pointers Recommendations References

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