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Alice Hill, Fostering for adoption - book review

Posted: March 13 2023

Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work
Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work

Interested in Social Work and want to learn more about the subject? The book reviews written by our Social Work students and staff help you identify the best literature to advance your learning.

This week:

  • Title: Fostering for adoption: Our story and stories of others
  • Publisher: Critical Publishing Ltd
  • ISBN: 9781398459960
  • Author/s: Alice Hill
  • Originally published in 2021
  • Reviewer/s: Tienga Ngale, MSc Social Work student
  • Published first in the Journal of Social Work
book cover of fostering for adoption

This book is a narrative account by Alice Hill. Alice has been married to her husband, Will, for many years and their journey to parenthood leads them through the adoption process after the couple had endured several unsuccessful pregnancies. In Fostering for Adoption, Alice deploys a chronological set of diary entries to offers us a detailed and intimate account of their journey throughout the adoption process, with particular focus on fostering for adoption. In page 3, Alice writes: ‘In England, Fostering for Adoption is a route to early permanence which places young people with their potential family on a foster care basis while the court decides on the plan for their future.’ It is hoped that fostering for adoption will minimise the number of placements endured by the looked-after child, whose completed assessment has concluded that the best interests of the child would be adoption.

The book is very well structured, easy to follow and divided into 10 chapters that take us through a 2-year journey that starts in September 2018 and culminates with the adoption of their baby P in September 2020. For someone who knows very little about adoption, the pages on adoption terminology at the beginning of the book are very useful as they make the stories more accessible. The graphic timeline of their journey through the adoption process provides a visual perspective on the story and for me, the timeline became ever more important when I got to the end of the book. Chapter one is a very great helper as it provides a good introduction to Fostering for Adoption, highlighting the legal framework involved and the context that leads to their own journey into adoption. Additionally, the chapter also introduces all the other 16 families whose stories are related in the book, to provide a broader perspective on the experience of adoption. In the remaining nine chapters, Alice’s set of diary entries shares a very personal account of their journey, highlighting the many stages involved in the process, from their first adoption meeting through to the day they become adoptive parents. While this is largely her account of their journey, Alice is very effective in using the stories and the accounts of all the other families involved in the adoption process, to give the readers a unique experience of what the adoption process looks and feels like for the prospective adopters. On this journey to becoming adoptive parents, Will and Alice meet many other adopters whose experiences Alice uses to highlight the diverse experiences of adopters which are often very different from theirs. An example of this is when she uses the story of a couple, Jessica and Mark, to show an experience of fostering for adoption for parents who already have birth children. This extract of Jessica and Mark’s experience highlight the fact that the adopters also have to ‘make sure that [the children] knew that we may end up just caring for these babies for a few months, and then would say goodbye.’ Alice deploys all these families’ accounts in a way that adds clarity and depth to the learning experience that she is offering.

Most of the accounts in the book rely on her daily diary entries which are detailed, have a good flow and left me feeling closer to Alice’s experiences. She is brilliantly opened and honest about the emotional rollercoasters she has gone through during the process. One such moment is when Alice notes her feeling about the baby that they decided to turn down the day before. She writes ‘I felt like we had abandoned the baby, just as its mother had done. It is hard to think rationally when you are so emotional.’ Like many encounters in the book, I had not imagined such a moment and felt very grateful for the connection that I experienced. The book illustrates well the emotional setbacks, the moments of anxious wait, and the uncertainty that can be a central part of Fostering for Adoption.

The only reservation I have with the story is that the socio-economic reality of adopters could have also been diverse. Alice and her husband are high-achieving professionals, and her narrative speaks of a couple who are financially secured. At times, her experience left me feeling as though adoption is so financially demanding, it may be out of reach for many people. Despite the very rich diversity of the other adopters’ stories that she uses to enrich the experience that she gives us, there is nothing to give us a more nuance understanding of the socio-economic background of adopters and the financial considerations that, I expect, many adopters and foster families have to navigate. Entering the experience of adaption through their self-stated affluence, I felt that the book presents adoption as financially out of reach for many.

As a personal account, this book offers its readers a very authentic and fresh insight into the adoption experience. Alice’s account of her emotional responses and feelings can be of tremendous learning for social workers who work with adopters. It certainly opened my eyes to the work of fostering and adoption, to the unique emotional rollercoaster for adopting families and the tumultuous start that fostering and adoption, even as best option, represents for the child. This book is a good introduction to fostering for adoption, a guide for prospective adopters. I highly recommend this book for I think that Alice Hill offers a unique insight into the process of adoption that is often absent from most fostering and adoption conversations: the lived experience of the adopting families.