Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Summary Report. 2.1.1 Indicators of Adoption Success


Even with recent increases in adoptions, disruptions remain rare.

Adoptions have generally been quite stable and successful despite the lack of PAS development. Relatively low adoption disruption rates reflect this success. This suggests that many families will not need PAS in order to keep their adoptions intact. Three federally funded studies completed in the late 1980s and one completed more recently used different methods and samples, but all arrived at similar conclusions about the approximate rates of disruption: for special needs children, somewhere between 10 and 16 percent of adoptions will disrupt (Barth and Berry, 1988; Goerge, Howard, and Yu, 1996; Partridge, Hornby, and McDonald, 1986; Urban Systems Research and Engineering Inc. [USR&E], 1985). This suggests that adoption disruptions are lower than disruptions of guardianships, which appear to occur with approximately equal frequency but within a shorter time frame, or long-term foster care placements, which occur at a greater than 20 percent rate over a 3-year time frame (Berrick, Barth, Needell, and Jonson-Reid, 1998).

As a result of federal and state efforts, adoptions of foster children have increased sharply in recent years, with an apparent growth from 24,000 in 1996 to 36,000 in 1998 (Kroll, 1999; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2000). There is currently substantial concern that this growth will increase adoption disruption rates. However, Goerge, Howard, and Yu (1996) concluded that since the passage of PL 96-272 (The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Reform Act [AACWA]) in 1980, the number of special needs children who were adopted increased, but the percentage of failures from adoptions and adoptive placements has declined (Goerge, Howard, and Yu, 1996, p. 6). Indeed, the proportion of adoption disruptions fell in Illinois from 21 percent prior to AACWA to 10 percent after permanency planning was implemented. This decline suggests that changes in policy that result in additional adoptions of foster children need not result in higher levels of adoption disruption.

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