Pursuing the adoption pathway: the lived experiences of people living with HIV

Publication Date19 March 2018
AuthorTam Cane,Vasso Vydellingum,Wendy Knibb
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services,Sociology,Sociology of the family,Children/youth,Parents,Education,Early childhood education,Home culture,Social/physical development
Pursuing the adoption pathway: the lived
experiences of people living with HIV
Tam Cane, Vasso Vydellingum and Wendy Knibb
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the experiences that people with HIV faced as they
navigated through the intricate processes of trying to access adoption services in the south of England.
It proposes the need to pay more attention to people living with HIV (PLWHIV) able to adopt children.
The study aims to develop an increased focus on PLWHIV able to adopt.
Design/methodology/approach The paper is an exploratory study using an interpretative
phenomenological analysis (IPA) approach. Open-ended interviews were conducted with seven
participants including individuals and couples. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using IPAs
cross-case and ideographic analysis.
Findings The paper provides empirical insights about the challenges that PLWHIV experienced with social
workers. Positive experiences were in the minority. Lack of information, inadequate support, stigma and
discrimination, cultural insensitivity and disempowerment were frequently reported. The paper suggests that
greater understanding and better education for social workers would improve access to adoption by people
with HIV.
Research limitations/implications Given the chosen approach and small sample size, results may not
be generalisable.
Practical implications This study increases knowledge, promotes positive attitudes and improved
support for PLWHIV who are stable and able to offer permanency to adoptive children.
Originality/value This paper provides new ideas in an area that is scarcely researched. It identifies the
need to undertake further studies to understand how social workers assess PLWHIV and what can be done
to provide adequate support.
Keywords HIV, Adoption, Discrimination,Social work, Interpretative phenomenology, Peopleliving with HIV
Paper type Research paper
Since 2012, the UK Government has emphasised the importance of improving efficiency in
adoption processes and improving the value and quality of childrens lives with their adoptive
families. The Children Act (1989) made it clear that adoption is a serious decision made from
assessments and evidence used to ensure that the childs welfare will be safeguarded.
The current discourse on adoption suggests that prospectiveadopters should not be rejected at
the point of initialenquiry purely due to their backgroundor health issues. There is a needto reduce
barriers and discrimination that prevent potentially good, caring adoptive parents from adopting.
Thus, people living with HIV (PLWHIV) should be considered equally where health matters are
concerned and with regard to their rights to achieve parenthood. However, Paiva et al. (2003)
showed that in a sample of 250 HIV-positive men between the reproductive age of 17 and
74 years, 92 per cent of them were on antiretroviral treatment, stable and well. All participants
were asked if they had a desire to have children. Out of 250 men, 43 per cent (107 men) wanted
children. Of these 107 men, 26 per cent wanted a baby, yet 4 per cent had a desire to adopt.
On the contrary, 52 per cent of the 250 men had expressed no desire to have children due to fear
of horizontal transmission and professional or societal stigma, only 4 per cent (5) opted for
adoption. Many studies suggest that some PLWHIV do not feel encouraged by professionals to
Received 25 June 2017
Revised 12 December 2017
18 December 2017
Accepted 19 December 2017
Tam Cane is Senior Lecturer
and the Programme Lead for
Social Work for Programmes at
the Department of Psychology,
Counselling and Social Work,
University of Greenwich,
London, UK.
Vasso Vydellingum is Senior
Visiting Research Fellow at the
Faculty of Health and Medical
Sciences, University of Surrey,
Guildford, UK.
Wendy Knibb is an
Independent Consultant based
in Godalming, UK.
PAG E 18
VOL. 13 NO. 1 2018, pp. 18-32, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660 DOI 10.1108/JCS-06-2017-0026

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