The psychological development, world view and well-being of children in care and those adopted from care remains poorly understood. My journey towards understanding the lives and minds of such children began in 1989, when I started working as a child and family psychologist with children in care and other child welfare clients. I was struck by the absence of empirical knowledge about their development, mental health and well-being – of the lack of conceptual frameworks; of various phenomenological mysteries; and a reliance on non-standardised and subjective measurement tools. Few people had researched these questions for maltreated children, and even fewer had looked in any detail at how they applied to children in care and those adopted from care. These gaps in our knowledge have since been the focus of my life’s work – driven by my belief that improved knowledge can lead to better prevention, identification and treatment of the psychological problems manifested by such children. My work is also driven by a strong intellectual curiosity about these questions.
To date, the Children in Care study and the Assessment Checklist for Children have been my most important contributions to improving our understanding of adopted and ‘in care’ children. My findings from this work are helping to re-conceptualise the development and mental health of children in care, and those who transition from care to adoption.