A Professionally Led Adoption Triad Group: An Evolving Approach to Search and Reunion

By Valley, Stephen; Bass, Barbara et al. | Child Welfare, May/June 1999 | Go to article overview

A Professionally Led Adoption Triad Group: An Evolving Approach to Search and Reunion


Valley, Stephen, Bass, Barbara, Speirs, Carol Cumming, Child Welfare


In the field of postadoption services, counseling resources for reunited biological relatives are scarce. An adoption triad search and reunion pilot project at McGill University School of Social Work responded to this scarcity by providing the triad of adopted persons, biological parents, and adoptive parents with supportive counseling, and by conducting research on the outcomes. This article is an evaluative descriptive study of a mutualaid adoption triad group in search and reunion. The data were gathered through pre- and postintervention questionnaires and from process notes of the group meetings, which revealed five major themes. Results of the group experience, in terms of the feelings of the participants, were positive. The mutual-aid triad group can serve as a model for agencies and professionals seeking effective, affordable methods of providing postadoption search and reunion support services.

In the United States and Canada, as well as in other Western nations, a growing number of individuals are searching for, and being reunited with, biological relatives from whom they have been separated through adoption [Campbell et al.1991; Daly & Sobol 1993; Rozenzweig-Smith 1988; Sachdev 1992; Schecter & Bertocci 1990; Silverman et al. 1994]. Although self-help support groups have offered services to help adoption triad members deal with the complex emotional and psychological issues that arise throughout the search and reunion process, much has been written about the need for professionally led counseling and support services [Feast & Smith 1995; Gladstone & Westhues 1992; Logan & Hughes 1995; Reitz & Watson 1992; Sachdev 1989; Sorosky et al.1984; Speirs & Baker 1994; Sullivan 1995; Triseliotis 1973,1988a]. Public and private agencies and individual practitioners are under growing pressure to develop adoption search and reunion support programs within the current atmosphere of shrinking social service expenditures [Feast 1992; Hartman 1984; Reitz & Watson 1992].

A review of the adoption literature reveals a scarcity of information on the use of group methods in the delivery of postadoption services, particularly in relation to search and reunion. Triseliotis [1988b] reported that the use of groups in adoption dates back to the 1960s, when it began in the United States and Britain as a means of preparing and assessing adoptive families. He pointed out that professionally led postadoption support groups were developed later, mostly for adoptive parents or families, with the primary objective of maintaining the adoptive placement.

Groupwork in Postadoptive Services

Adoption triad support groups in North America began as a part of the grass-roots search and reunion movement, and have been run as self-help groups, primarily by biological mothers and adopted persons separated through adoption. For the most part, these groups have operated as self-help groups run by lay people [Winkler et al. 1988]. Professionals have noted the importance of including all members of the triad in groups, because of the common issues they share [Reitz & Watson 1992; Winkler et al. 1988].

A limited number of postadoption group models have been described in the literature; the outcomes of these models may have implications for the use of adoption triad groups in search and reunion. Authors have reported on the advantages of professionally led groups with adoptive families coping with problems during the adolescence of adopted persons [Pannor & Nerlove 1977); with children adopted at older ages [Cordell et al. 1985]; and with adoptive parents concerned about the potential of search and reunion [DiGiulio 1979]. Although care should be taken in applying these reports to adoption triad search and reunion groups, their results indicate that others have successfully employed group methods in postadoption services.

Others have pointed out the advantages of including all members of the adoption triad in groupwork in adoption. …

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