Sarah Bunt


The research has set out to examine the motives that contribute towards the decision to adopt a disabled child. Increased knowledge about placing disabled children for adoption is particularly important as they are regarded as the category hardest to place (Adoption Register 2009). Despite the wide gaps in knowledge, the negativity associated with the social construction of disability has been seen as a cause of disabled children’s disadvantage (Cousins 2009). Synthesising a Critical Realist framework with Grounded Theory methods; to examine both the efforts of local authorities to place a disabled child for adoption, as well as the narratives of those adopters who take on disabled child. The findings reveal that social workers often take a tentative approach to placing a disabled child, which impacts upon adoption outcomes, both in the way they represent disabled children and in the way they recruit and assess adopters. The Rationalistic Habitus is a concept used to reflect the way social workers reason their way through particular issues before arriving at a practice judgement. The study, also examines the narratives of adopters and their journey through the process of adopting a child with a significant impairment. Instances where adopters embark on adopting a disabled child are significant because they are making a decision in opposition to a prevailing discourse where disabled children are conceptualised as a burden to their families (Jordan and Sales 2007). An examination of these adopter’s motives requires one to think more deeply about how motives are processed. By focusing on the Habitus and reflexivity this research has attempted to bring new insights into how people process the prospect of becoming a parent to a disabled child. However, while the decision to adopt a disabled child might appear unconventional it is not so abnormal that we cannot make sense of their motives. The lifelong nature of the adoption role demonstrates that commitment is at the heart of these adoptions. The notion of a Commitment Habitus is reflected when adopters express an innate drive to nurture. In effect, this research contends that the motive to adopt a disabled child is wrapped in an orientation to invest in social relationships.

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