Birth relatives of adopted children in the UK are entitled to independent support during and after adoption, but types of support vary and there is little evidence of what works. This mixed-methods study is an evaluation of a psychotherapeutic counselling service for birth relatives operating across five areas of England. Case records of 304 birth relatives referred over a two-year period were examined retrospectively. Service user questionnaires and interviews with five service users and five staff members were analysed. The birth relatives had histories of abuse and trauma (59%), mental health difficulties (36%) and learning disabilities (26%). Engagement varied from 29% to 62% in different areas; they were more likely to attend in the later stages of the adoption process, if they self-referred, and if the service model offered counselling close to home and without strict limits on the number of sessions. Birth relatives described: Building a special relationship, experiencing a ‘release’; making sense of what happened to my children; being able to make changes; and putting myself back together. This evaluation shows that birth relatives can engage with psychotherapeutic counselling if the time is right and if services are sufficiently flexible, trauma-informed and tailored to their needs.
- birth mothers
- birth relatives