The Anna Freud Centre highlights the need to increase early therapeutic support for adoptive families and their children

22nd October 2020  |  By: Jenny Album

The Anna Freud Centre is expanding its services help adopted children and their families. The expanded service will allow the Centre to see many more families – with a particular focus on the needs of adopted children from the earliest years of their lives (age 0-5).

Dr Camilla Rosan, Head of the Early Years Programme at the Anna Freud Centre said, “Many adopted children have had traumatising starts in life – often coming into adoption because of experiences of abuse and neglect. There are currently very few therapeutic services that support adoptive families with toddlers or very young children. We feel that adopted children and their families are some of those most in need of specialist support, including in those early years when a child’s distress may remain undetected, for they are unable to fully communicate it.”

The Anna Freud Centre is currently working on building up its expertise in working with adoptive families, and remote working will allow us to reach many more adoptive families up and down the country. The Centre has been supported in this expansion by funding from The Adoption Support Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund and KPMG Foundation.

Camilla Rosan added: “It’s during the early years of a child’s life that the foundations are laid for their later development and wellbeing. This is particularly important to think about when it comes to adopted children, of whom around 75% are adopted between the ages of one and four.

“In order for the foundations to be solid, these children must be able to develop strong, trusted relationships with those around them. When they do, this has the potential to impact positively on their wellbeing and future life chances.”

The Centre recently adapted one of its well established ‘Parent-Toddler Therapeutic Groups’ to meet the needs of adoptive families, in an attempt to explore what the outcomes would be on parents and children. The groups are designed to support adoptive parents develop close, nurturing, and safe relationships with their recently adopted toddlers. It also aims to support families in understanding and processing of the traumas their adoptive child may have gone through using play and groups work approaches.

Through this work, the Centre discovered that the parents who had attended the group found it useful for supporting their relationship with their toddler. They reported improvements in their own mental health, and their levels of parenting stress. Alongside this, some positive changes were found in the children’s developmental outcomes, which can so often be delayed for adoptive children in the early years. This was a small study and the Centre plans to do further research to learn more. Read more about the findings of this project.

The Centre is keen to hear from anyone whose Regional Adoption Agency would be interested in getting involved in improving the therapeutic support provided to adopted children and their families:

The Anna Freud Centre invites all those working with adoptive families in early years settings to join a free webinar at 4:30-6pm on Thursday 3 December involving Sally Donavan OBE. Here, new findings and fresh insights will be shared around best practice in supporting adopted children and their families.


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