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Beginner's guide to adoption - reading list, websites, DVDs, podcasts and more

chestnuttree January 21, 2023 12:35

I recently compiled this list for a friend and thought others might find it useful. This list is by no means comprehensive, I hope it is a good starter though.

Key topics to read up upon:

  • attachment,
  • complex trauma (also called developmental trauma),
  • loss/ grief,
  • therapeutic parenting,
  • mental health conditions/ neurodiversity: ADHD, ASD, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression
  • FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) / FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)
  • possibly: transracial adoption, impact of sexual abuse, impact of in-utero drug exposure, schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder etc.


  • every fortnight on adoption. Expert interviews on a huge range of topics. Realistic and honest, but positive and constructive. American, so not all episodes are relevant. The website also offers lists of books, webinars etc.
  • The Adoption

Free online short courses: offers quite a few relevant free short courses.



  • Preparing for Adoption - Julia Davis,
  • Want to Adopt? - Helen Oakwater
  • What to expect when you are adopting - Dr Ian Palmer. Outdated in some respects, but still useful.
  • for family and friends:
  • Related by adoption - Hedi Argent
  • Adoption is a Family Affair! - Patricia Irwin Johnston


  • Daniel Hughes: Building the Bonds of Attachment, Principles of Attachment-focused Parenting, Brain-based parenting, Creating Loving Attachments - Parenting with PACE

Trauma and the brain:

Neuro-sequential model of development/therapy:

Adoptive Parenting/ Parenting techniques (practical guides for adopters):

  • Karen Purvis: The Connected Child;
  • Celia Foster: Big Steps for Little People
  • Caroline Archer: First Steps in Parenting the Child who hurts: Tiddlers and Toddlers; Next Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts
  • Sally Donovan: The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting;
  • Sarah Naish: The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting; Therapeutic Parenting in a Nutshell
  • Bryan Post

Developmental stages of adoptive children:

  • Holly van Gulden: Real Parents, Real Children

Trauma and the Body:

  • Bessel van der Kolk: The Body keeps the Score

Parenting and the Brain:

  • Why Love Matters - by Sue Gerhardt;
  • The Whole-Brain Child - Daniel Siegel
  • The Science of Parenting - Margot Sunderland

Adoption Testimonials/Experiences:

  • The Adoption Experience - Ann Morris (wide range of experiences);
  • Sally Donovan: No Matter What

Transracial adoption:

Resources/organisations, UK-based:

DVDs/ Workbooks to use with children:

  • Sensory and Attachment Play, 0-5 year olds:
  • Martgot Sunderland's "Helping Children" workbook series
  • Life Story Work with Children who are Fostered or Adopted by Katie Wrench, Lesley Naylor

Other websites:

Some books for young adopted children/ siblings:

  • The Lamb-a-roo
  • A mother for Choco
  • Flora's family
  • My parents picked me / My New Family (same book) by Pat Thomas: explains the adoption process very well
  • The great big book of families
  • Todd Parr books
  • Nancy Tillman books. Not adoption specific, but very good for bonding and building self-esteem.

Memory books (for babies, but can also be used for older children):

Things to remember for introductions and during early placement:

Write down everything

  • that happens every day when the child is first placed (first few weeks)
  • that is said about the child before your time (eg. "she/he was the funniest child we ever cared for")
  • that is said about the birth parents in meetings with social workers and foster carers. It might not all be "official information" and on file.
  • take pictures of everything: their room at the fc, the view from that room, their nursery, their teachers, their social workers - everything!
  • Keep some of the clothes they come in/ of the first meeting in their memory box
Edited 05/02/2023
P_As January 23, 2023 09:17

Thank you - a great list, I'll be working through!

Safia November 19, 2023 11:05

Carolyn Spring is a great website to look at. She has written 2 books on recovery from trauma and a number of online courses which you pay for and then have lifetime access to. This includes her presentation and additional resources and reading material. Each week she offers one course at a reduced rates of £30 (reduced from £45) which once bought you can access any time. Her own experiences are extreme but her material has much more general application and her explanations simple and straightforward

This week the reduced cost course is on relational trauma and disorganised attachment. I have done the ones on childhood sexual abuse and dissociation and found them excellent

Edited 19/11/2023


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