Open adoption creates a new adoptive kinship network and, in this context, adoptive parents have been referred to as relationship pioneers (Grotevant 2009 ) because there are few cultural norms to guide their interactions with the adopted child’s birth relatives. It is recognised that many families may, therefore, require help to negotiate and sustain contact, and that this support should be informed by understanding of relational processes in the adoptive kinship network. This book provides insight into adopters’ experience of adoptive kinship: how they understand and manage their own and their child’s relationships with birth relatives and the meanings these interactions hold for them as parents. It suggests ways to facilitate positive interactions and sustainable relationships between adoptive and birth families.
This study approaches adoptive parents, not as carers or placement providers, but as parents fi rst and foremost. It therefore, connects the experience of adoptive parenthood not only to the body of adoption research, but also to more general theories of family life. While adoption features highly in child welfare literature, because it is considered a special case it is almost invisible in the general sociological, anthropological, or family process literature. To redress this, the book answers recent calls (Jones and Logan 2013 ) to consider sociological understandings of kinship as ‘made’ rather than ‘given’ (Mason 2011 ) when thinking about adoption. As a resource for interpreting adopters’ accounts of parenthood, it draws upon a social constructionist conceptualisation of kinship, prevalent in recent sociological explorations of personal life, which understands ‘family’ not as an inevitable derivative of biological or legal connection, but actively constituted through everyday functional and interactional processes (Holstein and Gubrium 1999 ). This focus on ‘doing’ family examines the way that all family relationships are constituted and sustained through the activities, or ‘practices’ (Morgan 1996 , 2011 ), of everydaylife, thus blurring the distinction between adoption and other family forms. This offers a way of understanding adoptive kinship additional to theories of psycho- social development and attachment that have predominated in adoption research to date.