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The Creation of Families: Christianity and Contemporary Adoption

CHARLTON, SARAH,LOUISE (2009) The Creation of Families: Christianity and Contemporary Adoption. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is a theological and practical reflection on the practice of adoption in contemporary Britain, as it affects Christian adoption agencies, Christian social workers, Christian parents and adopted children.

The first three chapters set the background context to the research by examining the history, theology, legal and sociological context. This enables the contemporary situation to be established, particularly the potential for tension between the thinking of many Christians about constructing adoptive families and the open, liberal stance of the state and Local Authorities. This tension was heightened with the passing of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 that drew attention to radically different viewpoints within adoption work.

The theological reflection methods employed were the pastoral cycle and canonical narrative, both of which were subordinate to an overall theology of engagement that enabled the interface between the Christian and non-Christian work in adoption to be investigated. The methodological approaches taken enabled quantitative and qualitative material to be combined. Three surveys were distributed: two to Christian groups, agencies and parents, involved in adoption work and one to adoption social workers. Secondly, telephone interviews were conducted. Data was also collected from a wide range of Internet websites. Fourthly, data was gathered from literature distributed by adoption agencies.

A chapter (4) on Christian Adoption Agencies develops a theoretical agency that relates to the Church and the contemporary adoption system. Differences between historically different denominational emphases in adoption work and the present day reality is described. It continues to be possible for Christian adoption agencies to be relevant and specialised in this work.

Central to all adoption work is the child: their future stability and happiness. This is examined by focussing upon the impact of the Christian faith on the potential for healing and wholeness for an adopted child (chapter 5). Three specific aspects of life are explored: an adopted child’s spirituality, identity and nurture. This discussion naturally leads into a further discussion about prospective and actual adoptive parents: the manner in which the Christian faith has a bearing upon adoption before, during and after the adoption of a child (chapter 6).

Finally, Christian people within and without adoption work have been challenged about the nature of the family in the adoptive context. ‘Families’ that are accepted by the general population can be tolerated by some Christians yet discredited by others. The question is asked whether newly created adoptive families can have forms that are radically different from traditional patterns (chapter 7).

This thesis concludes that Christians are making a contribution to adoption work that could be said to be distinctive. This said the Church should work to promote adoption of children with more confidence and debate less about adopters. This is a bold and contentious statement yet I contend that adoption could and should be a characterising motif of Christian family life.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Dec 2009 09:33

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