Adoption support

Adoption support services

In our experience many of our adoptive families stay in touch with the agency and avail themselves of the adoption support services at different stages in their family life. This ranges from advice and guidance to more intensive adoption support. We strongly encourage our families to seek support as needed and to maintain links with the agency and other adoptive families.

All of our team are trained in using Theraplay© informed practice, which plays a significant part in supporting new parents therapeutically build and nurture a positive, secure and loving bond with their child/ren, and help the child to heal from the poor early life experiences/trauma they have experienced in their young lives.


Adoption support is available to all of our families like this woman with teenage child hugging her from behind

We were the first agency to partner with the Theraplay Institute© and to host Theraplay training for professionals. We are very proud of the strong established relationship we have with the Institute over the past years.

Theraplay is a child and family play therapy that focuses on building and enhancing attachment, promoting confidence and self-esteem, and trust in others. It is based on the natural patterns of playful healthy interaction between parent and child. It is personal, physical and fun. Theraplay is based on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships, Structure, Nurture, Engagement and Challenge. Sessions create an active, emotional connection between parent and child, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and loveable, and of relationships as positive and rewarding (from the Theraplay Manual).

Feedback from the parents who have used this approach (with the guidance and support of their social worker) has been extremely positive and rewarding in terms of the desired close relationship being strengthened, as well as filling in the gaps of the child’s early unmet needs.

Family support

Families sometimes require additional adoption support and guidance at different points in the life of their child. This need often arises at points of transition, such as the move from nursery to school or from primary to secondary school, significant changes in the family circumstances or a house move.

Adopted children can display a range of challenging behaviours, such as functioning at a much younger emotional age and stage to their chronological years, behaviours stemming from heightened anxiety and attachment difficulties, related to their early life experiences. We aim to provide our families with further advice on such behaviour, so they can manage and better understand their child. We also do direct work with children and families using the Theraplay© dimensions and DDP (Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy) principles.

Sometimes these behaviours create challenges at school and we are available to provide support to the family and school in these situations. This can help to facilitate a better working relationship between home and school. We attend school meetings as required, and offer the delivery of SafeBase for Schools, which is complementary to the SafeBase Parenting Programme.

In addition to the direct work that we undertake we are also able to signpost families to other relevant services, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and other therapies.

In some circumstances we advocate for families who need Disability Living Allowance, or adoption allowances applied retrospectively, depending on the presenting/evolving needs of the child.

Life story work

This is an area of work we are often involved in and needs to be revisited at different times during the adopted child’s life as they grow in their understanding of their adoption and identity. This consists of either direct work with the child or young person on their life story, or supporting parents to do this work with their child themselves (usually when the child is much younger – social work support is often sought when the child is approximately 9 +years and the family finds it harder to explain some of the complexities to them).

In doing this work we use the models developed by Joy Rees and Richard Rose.

Making contact

Help with managing contact can include facilitating letterbox contact with the birth family. It may also include facilitating direct face-to-face contact with birth family members, such as birth parents, grandparents and siblings. Where direct contact is taking place this would involve counselling with all parties to ensure this is safe and appropriate for all concerned, especially the adoptee.

Adoption counselling/tracing

We offer counselling to all people affected by adoption through St Andrew’s Children’s Society.

For the adoptee this includes preparing a profile of his/her early life and background to their adoption. We also offer a search and intermediary service for those wishing to trace birth relatives separated by adoption.

Training opportunities

As an agency we are committed to providing relevant training on a wide range of topics. This may vary according to the needs expressed by our families.

Topics have included:

  • Stress and the teenage brain
  • Managing challenging behaviour
  • Talking to your child about adoption
  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Attachment
  • Introduction to Theraplay© dimensions
  • Family and Friends Training
  • Single Adopters Group
  • Sensory Attachment Integration
  • Support with Schools
  • Life Story Work
  • Parent Pampering Morning sessions in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen
  • Pizza support night for Mums (and Dads, separately) Aberdeen


We ensure that our families are invited to training provided by St Andrew’s Children’s Society, as well as keeping families informed of other relevant training opportunities provided by other organisations.


We are continuing to develop and adapt the groups we offer in response to the needs expressed by our families.

Here is an example of some of the groups we have run over the years at St Andrew’s Children’s Society:

  • A Parent and Child Group using Theraplay© twice a year. This involves six weekly sessions at the agency promoting and developing sensory and playful activities that enhance attachment claiming and belonging.
  • We run a Single Adopters Group that meets three times a year.
  • A group for older girls – over recent years we have successfully run a group for older girls. This provided them with the opportunity to meet with other adopted young people to explore some of the issues that were important to them, such as identity, school, managing friendships and feelings.
  • We have also run a group for younger girls which was more activity and play based. The plan is to resume this group with a focus on Theraplay© techniques and other play experiences. We are looking into developing a mixed teens group.
  • In Aberdeen we offer a Dads and Lads group, which soon will be open to girls too, given its popularity. In Edinburgh we link in to the group for Dads and Children. This is run by adopters from the various voluntary agencies and local authorities across Edinburgh and the Lothians.
  • Until recently we have also had an Adopters Group and a Male Adopters Group and are considering how best to take these forward.


As of last year, we began to provide a Parent Pamper morning for our parents. This was very well received – many of the parents found the opportunity to have a half hour of head massage/reflexology/hand massage a chance to have their batteries renewed and more centred in being able to parent their child.

We welcome suggestions from our adopters and foster carers as to what training opportunities and types of groups they feel would best benefit them and their children.

Maureen and her husband Jim adopted 5 children through St Andrew’s Children’s Society. Find out what adopting meant to them.


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SafeBase parenting programme

This is an experiential programme. Prior to attending, families take part in a filmed family session based on the four dimensions of Theraplay©. A further session is arranged to provide the parents with feedback recognising the positive interactions observed, as well as identifying some areas that may need strengthened. The aims of the course include:

  • Raising levels of awareness by providing information that includes attachment theory and the impact of trauma on brain development.
  • Helping adoptive parents develop their understanding and responses to the challenges their children’s pre-placement experiences may pose now or in the future.
  • Developing and sharing practical strategies to manage these challenges.
  • Exploring the meaning of the development of permanence and constancy in child development.
  • Developing the knowledge base and skills of adoptive parents to empower them to care for their children more confidently and to deal with professionals effectively.
  • Improving family interactions so that the family feel hope, have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

What people say about SafeBase

I have a far better understanding of my daughter’s character and reasons for her behaviour.

I didn’t quite realise how important it was going to be for me. I almost said I didn’t need it!! How wrong would that have been?

I believe that the tools that we have been equipped with by SafeBase, should enable us to approach our child’s issues with fresh understanding and a new level of calmness, hopefully leading to a closer and more loving family. This has been a very valuable learning experience, especially about myself!

SafeBase has improved my understanding of attachment issues and has provided us with practical strategies and techniques to improve the care we provide and our relationship with our child. The explanation of brain development and attachment was very helpful.

I wish I had done this years ago.

SafeBase for schools

This programme evolved from the SafeBase Parenting Programme. It is a one day training programme delivered to teachers, learning assistants, nursery staff and any other adult involved in the life of children at school. Its aims are to:

  • Inform schools about adoption and its impact on the child, their school and the child’s ability to learn.
  • Equip schools to advocate for their vulnerable children.
  • Educate about attachment difficulties and early life neglect and abuse including how this shapes brain development and the child’s responses to stress and learning capacity.
  • Equip schools to feel competent and confident in teaching children to achieve their learning potential.

Take the next step now!

One of our social workers will then contact you.

Alternatively, please call us on 0131 454 3370 (if you live within 60 miles of Edinburgh) or 01224 878 158 (if you live within 60 miles of Aberdeen or Elgin) or email and we’ll send you an enquiry form to complete and return.

If you have any questions or are unsure if you can adopt or foster through us, please contact us anyway using the details above to speak with one of our social workers.

6 sets of colourful wellies in a row depicting family

My dream came true and there was lots of hard work from myself, but I could not have done it without the hard work, determination and faith from St Andrew’s Children’s Society.