Leeds Beckett University
RaceMattersAdoptionAndChildrenOfMixedRaceHeritage-AGU_Redacted.pdf (2.25 MB)

Race Matters: Adoption and Children of Mixed Race Heritage

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posted on 2022-11-18, 11:20 authored by Lorraine AguLorraine Agu

Within the UK adoption has become a highly politicised and racialised practice as successive governments have promoted adoption above other forms of permanence. The Children and Families Act, 2014, controversially removed the requirement that adoption agencies should ‘give due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background’. Using Critical Race Theory and contemporary sociological discourses, this is the first study to examine how social workers have responded to this legislative reform, to examine if and how race matters within adoption. This qualitative study took place in a local authority and its associated adoption agency. Through the use of semi-structured interviews with nine children’s social workers, six adoption social workers, an agency decision-maker and a focus group with eight members of an adoption panel, this study examined the influence of race and ethnicity on adoption practice for children of mixed racial backgrounds. In providing a theoretical discussion of the construction of race and mixed race, this study examines how mixed race identities are conceptualised within social work assessments and how this informs decision-making and matching with prospective adopters. Through the application of critical race methodologies and thematic analysis, the findings suggested that three interrelated themes: Racial Literacy and Social Work; Race, Adoption and Ethical Literacy and Racially Literate Adoption Practice highlight the salience of race within adoption practice. The study found that despite the removal of the ethnicity clause, race continues to matter for mixed race children within English adoption practice, as many social workers demonstrated an ethical commitment to the significance of race for children’s adoptive identities. The study highlighted increased heterogeneity in categories of mixedness as participants sought to understand the complexity of children’s lived experiences. However, the study identified a lack of racial literacy within adoption practice, which was reflected by an inconsistency in how mixed race identities were represented in assessments and reports, and it was difficult to determine how race and ethnicity were considered in placement decisions. The study concluded that race does not need to be an explicit feature of discourse to remain an invisible presence and highlighted the potential of Critical Race Theory to understand racialisation within adoption policy and practice. The study offers recommendations regarding future research; adoption policy and practice, and social work education and training with the intention of improving the experiences of mixed race children who are seeking adoption. 


Qualification name

  • PhD


Claire Surr; Kevin Hylton

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng

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