‘Kinship by design’ in England: reconfiguring adoption from Blair to the coalition



Derek Kirton,

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research,

University of Kent,

Cornwallis North East,

Canterbury, CT2 7NF,


E-mail: D.Kirton@kent.ac.uk


Using Ellen Herman's concept of ‘kinship by design’ (KBD), this paper analyses recent efforts to reform adoption in England, arguing that they represent an attempt to curtail the powers of adoption professionals and their established practices of assessing and responding to risk. Examining policy contexts and relevant research, the paper looks at various facets of contemporary KBD in England as they relate to adoptable children, the treatment of adopters, matching, support and systemic governance of adoption within a mixed economy. From this analysis, it is suggested that the evidence base for many of the reforms is limited and that in important respects represents a ‘manufactured crisis’ used to justify radical changes, which, in turn, pose significant risks to wider policy and practice in child welfare.