Moving to Adoption cover

Moving to Adoption

Using the UEA model to help children move from foster care to adoption


For the majority of UK children adopted from care, adoption confers legal security, loving relationships and a sense of belonging in the adoptive family. However, in most cases, it also means that the child must be moved from a trusted foster family. This move can involve positive anticipation and enjoyment of new experiences, but also difficult feelings, which may include grief and loss of the foster and birth families. When the emotional impact of the move on the child is not recognised and responded to sensitively, or when moves are stressful or rushed, this can negatively affect the child’s well-being and even the adoption’s stability. It is essential that social work practice before, during and after the move places the child’s emotional needs at the centre, whilst also supporting carers and adopters.

This guide introduces an authoritative practice model for supporting children’s moves from their foster family to their adoptive family – the University of East Anglia (UEA) Moving to Adoption model. Drawn from a two-year practice development project, the UEA model promotes sensitive practice that is responsive to the child’s needs. It can be applied to the moves of children of all ages and a range of circumstances. Although the focus is on adoption, the model’s principles are applicable whenever a child is to be moved from one carer to another.

Who this book is for

This guide will help managers, social workers and other professionals to embed the model in their practice, and use it to support children, foster carers and adopters through this pivotal time in their lives.

What you will find in this book

The guide:

  • reviews the key messages from research and practice;
  • explores how the Secure Base model (now a well-established tool in adoption and fostering practice) underpins the new Moving to Adoption model;
  • examines the practice associated with preparing and supporting the child, foster carers and adopters during the child’s move to adoption;
  • explains the models’ three stages, with examples of their use; and
  • provides suggestions for implementing the model in social work practice, whilst supporting the professionals involved.

The book also includes a Secure Base checklist which can be downloaded in Word format.

Download checklist

Read the contents page and introduction


Dr Mary Beek is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Research on Children and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of East Anglia. She has had a parallel career in social work, mainly in the fields of fostering and adoption practice and management. 

Professor Elsbeth Neil is a Professor and Director of Research in the School of Social Work at the University of East Anglia. Her research interests are in how adoption is experienced by adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents, and particularly how birth and adoptive families keep in contact. 

Professor Gillian Schofield is Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Social Work at the Centre for Research on Children and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of East Anglia, where she has taught social workers and conducted research since 1990. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020 for services to children and family social work and fostering. 

Gillian and her colleague Mary Beek developed the Secure Base model of therapeutic caregiving, which is widely used in the UK and in diverse countries including China, Thailand, Vietnam and Ukraine, where it is supporting the process of establishing foster care as an alternative to institutional care.


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