Working Together for Success

Families adopting children with complex needs face many challenges that can affect the long-term success of these placements. But there is very little practical Canadian research to guide parents, professionals and community organizations in supporting special needs adoptions. And while adoption and disability communities have many concerns in common, they rarely work together.

In 2010-11, social work researcher Alice Home conducted an innovative study of stakeholders’ views on parenting adopted children whose special needs stem mainly from ADHD, FASD and/or other disabilities, disorders and medical conditions, or who risk being affected by pre-natal exposure to drugs/alcohol. With a grant from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Home interviewed parents, adoption associations and social workers in British Columbia and Ontario to learn about parenting challenges and supports.

A grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) made it possible for Dr. Home and her team – Dr. Irene Carter (University of Windsor) and Sandra Scarth (Adoption Council of Canada) – to ensure parents, professionals and community groups have access to key research findings and can offer input on implications. In partnership with the Adoption Council of Ontario, Choices Adoption and Counselling, and Canadian Coalition of Adoptive Families, workshops were held in Ottawa and Victoria in fall 2012. These events were a rare opportunity for researchers, parents and members of adoption, child welfare and disability communities to build connections, share knowledge and develop strategies.

These videos have been created from the presentations, interviews with a few workshop participants and plenary summaries of theme group discussions. L'une des vidéos, soit l'étude "Stakeholder", est disponible en français également. Three monographs (short booklets) based on study and workshop content provide practical information on issues and strategies, as well as a resource list.  Une monographie est disponible en français alors que les deux autres s'accompagnent d'un synopsis en français


Available here!


December 18, 2014: Adoptive Families Need Support Year-Round: New Canadian Research Highlights Urgent Need for More Post-Adoption Support


Working Together Across Boundaries 

Why the Stakeholder study was needed and reasons for promoting cross-boundary collaboration.

Video (4:55):


Stakeholder Study

Project lead Alice Home describes her study and key findings, illustrated with participant quotes.  Disponible en français.

Video (10:02):   

Theme monograph: What’s Going On? Disentangling children’s disabilities and getting support 

Advocating for Children with Disabilities

Disability researcher Irene Carter presents steps and strategies for effective, long-term advocacy.

Video (8:24): 

Monograph: Advocacy for children with disabilities: Issues and strategies.

Ways Forward

Key issues, unmet needs and recommendations raised by study and workshop participants to promote success in special needs adoptive parenting.

Video (12:40):  

Theme monograph: Not just disability and adoption: Addressing cultural issues

Theme monograph:  What's going on? Disentangling disabilities and getting support.  Disponible en français.


Alice Home, Professor Emeritus of social work at University of Ottawa led this SSHRC-supported project. The “Stakeholder” study of special needs adoptive parenting is her most recent work on parenting children with disabilities. A related study examined groups of parents whose children have ADHD, FASD or ASD; another dealt with employed mothers of children with ADHD. The latter has been published widely in international scholarly and community venues, as was her work on women who carry family and job roles during university studies. Dr. Home taught in French for 30 years in three universities (Ottawa, Montreal, Laval), in the areas of group work, research with families/children, and preventive/community practice.  Her consultation and staff development are in group work, while her direct practice was in adoptions, child welfare and family counselling. She is an adoptive mother of a sibling group with ADHD and related disabilities.

Irene Carter is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, University of Windsor.  She helped to establish and coordinated the Disability Studies program at that university. She teaches disability and social work courses and has worked in service delivery for people with disabilities for over twenty-five years. Her research focuses on intellectual and developmental disabilities, self-help and support groups, and disability studies. Dr. Carter has published widely in professional and scholarly journals in these fields. She is a grandmother of an adolescent with autism, for whom she has also been an advocate since he was diagnosed at the age of two.

Sandra Scarth, collaborator in this project, represented Adoption Council of Canada (ACC). She is past President of ACC and was Executive Director of an adoption agency. As a social worker, she has advocated for over 40 years for improved permanency planning and post placement services. She completed reviews of adoption services in Alberta and inter-country adoption for the federal government. She is an adoptive parent of two older children from foster care.

Rachel Warren, MSW (University of Victoria) played a pivotal role as research assistant in this project. Her graduate research formed the basis for the monograph Not just disability and adoption: Addressing cultural issues. Rachel has extensive social work experience in child welfare and adoptions.

TO CONTACT US/PRENDRE CONTACT AVEC NOUS:  snadopt.project@adopt.ca