SCIE Knowledge review 02: The adoption of looked after children

By Dr Alan Rushton

Published: November 2003


In the UK, political initiatives have encouraged the greater use of adoption as a solution to the care of children who cannot live with their birth families. This drive for 'permanence' has been welcomed by many, but has also given rise to debate. Where children have lingered uncertainly and for too long in the care system, 'permanence' is clearly the top priority. But not all children need the same solution. They may be 'children who wait', but they may not be waiting specifically for adoption. It is also argued that this concentration on adoption may discourage practitioners from taking an integrated view of all the available placement choices, to ensure that the best plan is made for each individual child.


This review was designed to indicate the scope of contemporary adoption research, and to suggest what further studies are needed to provide a better evidence base for policy and practice.


This review is intended for policymakers, practitioners, managers and researchers.

Messages from the knowledge review


All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following downloads you will need a free MySCIE account:

Available downloads:

  • The adoption of looked after children
  • The adoption of looked after children: Summary
  • The adoption of looked after children: Welsh summary

Related links:

SCIE's resources on children's and families' services