Changes and Continuities in Adoption Social Work: Adoption in Scotland Since the 1968 Act


Critchley A, Cowan P, Grant M & Hardy M (2020) Changes and Continuities in Adoption Social Work: Adoption in Scotland Since the 1968 Act. British Journal of Social Work.

This article charts changes and continuities in the social work role in adoption since 1968. The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 established the Children’s Hearing System, Scotland’s unique approach to child welfare in which lay volunteers make decisions on compulsory intervention relating to children. Although the Act was not intended to reform adoption practice, it has had two major impacts. First, as adoption moved from ‘relinquishment’ to more complex and contested legal routes, the Children’s Hearing came to occupy an integral role in decision-making for children in need of care and protection. Secondly, since 1968, adoption has become understood as a resource for children who are unable to remain within their birth family or kinship networks. Using documentary analysis of adoption files and interviews with key informants, the research focused on three key periods: 1968, 1988 and 2014. The study found that fragmentation of the social work role has decreased the potential of adoption records to be a resource for adopted individuals curious about their origins and story. Paradoxically, over this period, there has been growing understanding of the identity needs of adopted people. Such unintended consequences suggest the need for more a thoughtful approach to adoption record keeping.

Adoption; historical perspective; social work records

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

British Journal of Social Work

StatusIn Press
FundersSocial Work Scotland’s 2018
Publication date online02/09/2020
Date accepted by journal17/06/2020
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)

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