Permanence achieved through adoption or foster care: a review of international literature regarding disabled children’s experiences and outcomes

Victoria Welch, Kirsten Stalker, Christine Jones, Alasdair Stewart

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Research topic/aim: This literature study sought to summarise findings from studies relevant to achieving permanence for disabled looked after children. The primary focus was permanence achieved through foster care or adoption.

Theoretical and methodological framework: The review process was informed by a methodological framework for scoping reviews outlined by Arksey and O'Malley (2005) and focussed on material published since 1998. Peer reviewed and grey literatures were explored and 87 sources selected for inclusion. Material varied widely in terms of methods used, study scale and focus area. We report findings thematically including outcomes for disabled children and messages for policy and practice.

Findings/ Conclusions: Disabled children fare worse than other looked after children across a number of areas including chances of being reunified with birth family, time taken to adoption, location and suitability of placement type and, for intellectually disabled children, likelihood of being adopted. In addition, some groups of disabled children experience more placement disruption than their peers. There is evidence to suggest that disabled children’s experiences and outcomes vary according to a number of factors including age, ethnicity, gender and impairment type.

Adopters and foster carers of disabled children are motivated by a number of factors and derive a range of satisfactions. Various recruitment, assessment and preparation strategies are described. Carers and adopters of disabled children often experience a number of challenges including high levels of fatigue, poor health or wellbeing and financial stress and may benefit from advocacy or support for themselves or their child. In relation to both practice and research we found evidence that children’s voices were largely absent. In conclusion we find the literature contains useful information for policy and practice, but equally that there are significant gaps in knowledge. These gaps include the perspectives of disabled children, longer terms outcomes and meeting individual needs particularly in terms of intellectual disability, mental ill health and behavioural difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2015
EventNNDR 13th Research Conference - Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Bergen, Norway
Duration: 6 May 20158 May 2015


ConferenceNNDR 13th Research Conference
Internet address


  • foster care
  • looked after children
  • mental ill health
  • intellectual disabilities
  • behavioural difficulties
  • adoption
  • fostering
  • permanence
  • care and protection of children


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