In the last few months we have presented our research findings to audiences at international and local conferences. We have also hosted three major events to connect with our key stakeholders in out-of-home care and the judiciary: 

  • Sydney Ideas (29th August)
  • IOAS Research to Practice Forum (30th August)
  • Judiciary Session on open adoption from out-of-home care (6th September)

It is exciting to share our emerging research findings and build new connections as we explore future research opportunities to address critical questions related to open adoption and other permanency placements.

Data collection has concluded on the research studies:

  • Family Connections
  • NSW Supreme Court Case File Review investigating children’s best interests in adoption matters.

We are now busy with analysing and writing up our findings. We look forward to sharing the learning from these studies through practice notes and peer reviewed journal publications. 

Initial findings from these studies have been presented by our team at the following events:

  • International Conference on Adoption Research, Montreal
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, Melbourne
  • Australian Child Welfare Association Conference, Sydney (pictured)
  • European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF) Conference, Portugal
  • Plenary presentation at the South Coast Children’s Wellbeing Conference, Kiama
  • FACS Service Sector Forums – Partnering in Permanency Practice Forum, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga
  • National Permanency Conference, Brisbane (invited)
  • Jigsaw/PASQ Forum on post-adoption support, targeting practice issues and service development, Brisbane (invited guest speaker)

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Research to Practice Forum 2018

The 2018 Research to Practice Forum, Taking the Long View focused on what we can learn from longitudinal research in out-of-home care. 

The forum opened with a heartfelt and moving acknowledgement of country from Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes, from the University of Sydney School of Education and Social Work. Several participants commented on the acknowledgement in their feedback, for example "This was the best acknowledgement of country I have ever heard. It was valuable to understand the background and meaning of the acknowledgement. I also really enjoyed the story about the babysitter’s tree as an example of the importance of cultural awareness.”

Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward, our international keynote speaker, presented the research she has been leading with Barnardos Australia. This study has been investigating the outcomes experienced by the 210 NSW children adopted through Barnardos between 1 September 1987 and 30 June 2013. Harriet's presentation will be available on our website once the Barnardos report is launched early next year.

Harriet established the Child and Family Research Centre at Loughborough University and is Honorary Research Fellow at the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford. In 2012, her work was recognised with the award of a CBE for her services to children and families. 

Other keynote speakers included Professor Elizabeth Fernandez, from the University of NSW. Elizabeth's presentation detailed the factors contributing to successful and unsuccessful reunification outcomes in out-of-home care. This topic is both timely and relevant given the NSW Government investment in programs aimed at improving family preservation and restoration.

Professor Paul Delfabbro, from Adelaide University, presented on findings from the NSW Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study. Paul is a principal investigator on this study, along with Professor Judy Cashmore, and other NSW colleagues. Paul’s presentation discussed the findings about Kinship care, which is expanding at a far greater rate than foster care.

Associate Professor Stefanie Schurer, from the University of Sydney, reported on the impact of the Federal Government income management (the Intervention) in the Northern Territory. Stefanie's work highlights the importance of research in understanding how policy interventions can have intended and unintended consequences for families and communities.

The feedback from participants attending the R2P forum was very positive. Attendees most valued that the research was based on children in NSW and Australia and the themes had a broad emphasis on all aspects of permanency, including restoration and Kinship care.

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Research to Practice Forum - Master Classes

Following the morning presentation, participants has the opportunity to attend a series of concurrent Master Classes. These sessions covered a diverse range of topics, including research into the family and service factors contributing to successful and unsuccessful outcomes for abused and neglected children. 

Other sessions covered Aboriginal Kinship structures, the Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study and the use arts-based methods for conducting qualitative research with birth parents.

Participants found the afternoon Master Classes worthwhile and commented on the benefits of exploring the themes in more depth, with opportunities for interaction. For example, participants in the Kinship session appreciated how the session explained the complex society structures in Aboriginal kinship placements, with some stating that it should be compulsory learning for anyone working with Aboriginal families.

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Taking the long view on out-of-home care - Sydney Ideas

The Research to Practice Forum presenters were joined by Deirdre Cheers, Chief Executive Officer, Barnardos Australia, for a panel discussion on Wednesday 29 August.

Reforms to out-of-home care in NSW invite greater scrutiny of the impacts of different permanency pathways on children. To date there has been very limited Australian research into children’s outcomes in different placement types, including open adoption, kinship care, guardianship and other permanency orders. Targeted and longitudinal research offers the most effective means of addressing this gap in knowledge.

This panel presented key findings from international and national research, implications for out-of-home care practice in NSW and responded to questions from the audience. 

For those who were not able to make it to the event, the podcast of the discussion is now available.

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Family connections in care

This qualitative research study explores families’ contact experiences through interviews and arts-based activities. We have had participation from 19 children and young people, 12 birth parents and 26 carers and adoptive parents (n=57 participants), with 23 dads that allow us to hear multiple perspectives on experiences of contact in permanent care.

This study led by Dr Susan Collings has provided rich insights into what makes contact work well for children and their families.  The results will be used to inform resources and casework practices that enable families to build constructive and respectful relationships. 

Read more >

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Judicial seminar on open adoption from out-of-home care

On Thursday 6 September, the Institute was invited to present to and lead a discussion with the NSW Supreme Court, Children's Court and District Court judiciary. The discussion covered the themes of the history of adoption under Australian legislation and practices. This included a multimedia presentation on the:

Past – historical practices of closed adoption, experiences of Forced Adoption and Stolen Generations, national apologies and ongoing support services for those affected by forced adoptions and members of Stolen Generations.

Present – Current legislation on adoption in Australian states and territories, highlighting key areas of similarity and difference, including how the wishes of children are represented

Future – Consideration of trends related to adoption policy in Australia, including reform efforts led by the Commonwealth to promote improved permanency outcomes for children in OOHC

The event provided a platform for the discussion of controversial topics in adoption.

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Other News

Children's best interests in NSW Supreme Court adoption matters

Data collection for the case file review of study of open adoptions approved in 2017 (n=117) is completed.  Dr Betty Luu has captured the de-identified details of each case, including information about contact, decision making regarding children’s best interests and cultural identity. This study is exploring research questions related to contact and decision making about best interests. A particular focus for the study is the analysis of children's cultural identity plans.

Dr Susan Collings awarded an Ian Potter Grant

Dr Susan Collings, Research Associate from the Institute of Open Adoption Studies, has been awarded an Ian Potter Foundation travel and conference grant which has help to support a tour of UK based academic centres and service providers involved in initiatives that aim to address the support needs of parents following statutory removal. During this tour Susan has also presented on the Institute’s research for the inaugural Nuffield research to practice symposium, at Lancaster University, delivered a seminar for students and local practitioners at the University of East Anglia, and to presented to students, academics and practitioners at the University of Bristol.

Susan is also attending the European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF) XV conference in Porto, Portugal, in October 2018, where she will be presenting the Institute’s research on the history of adoption in Australia, and an in-depth review of NSW Supreme Court case files of adoptions for children in out-of-home care during 2017. A particular focus for the review included the conditions for post-adoption birth family contact. 

We look forward to hearing more about Susan’s trip on her return.