Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Summary Report. 2.5 Evaluation of Post-Adoption Services and Supports Programs


Only five projects, described below, were identified as having formally assessed the performance of post-adoption services to prevent adoption disruption and dissolution. The small sample sizes and nonrandom sampling for several of these projects serves as a warning that the results should not be considered generalizable. The diversity of populations, services and evaluation methods represented by these evaluations makes it impossible to generalize any assessments except to note that while not all adoptions can be preserved, well-designed and evaluated programs can demonstrate positive effects.

Few PAS programs have been formally evaluated.

Although the available evaluation research is unable to offer precise estimates of the effectiveness of post-adoption services, some approaches have consistently been found to be more helpful than others. Contact with self-help groups or other adoptive parents who can provide respite and support is reported to be helpful (Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1993; Frey, 1986; Nelson, 1985; Walsh, 1991). In contrast, the disappointing results from the evaluations of brief, intensive adoption preservation services models suggests that they do not generally fit the needs of adoptive families (Barth, 1995; Howard and Smith, 1995). A less time-limited and more family-focused approach appears more suitable (Howard and Smith, 1995; Prew, Suter, and Carrington, 1990).

Illinois: Adoption/Guardianship Preservation Project. Beginning in the early 1990s, Illinois attempted to reduce disruptions to both adoptions and subsidized guardianships through its statewide adoption preservation program, which offers in-depth assessment, on-call support, therapy, support groups, and advocacy. The program currently serves approximately 600 families annually. The average case involves a total of 72 hours of work, including travel time and collateral contacts, and lasts for 9.7 months. Thirteen percent of children were out of their homes at the end of service, although nearly half of the parents of these children remained committed to their parental relationship. Satisfaction with the program was high; 92 percent of parents described themselves as satisfied or very satisfied with the services received. Childrens behavior was reported as improved by 74 percent of families and 70 percent of workers (Howard and Smith, 2001).

Oregon: Post-Adoption Family Therapy Project. In Oregons PAFT Project, an adoption worker and a family therapist (both of whom were licensed clinical social workers) teamed up to provide services to families struggling with post-adoption issues. Sessions were often conducted in the familys home and focused on helping parents develop better ways of relating to their adopted childs confused belief system, which may be the cause of the childs inappropriate behavior (Prew, 1990). Only 8 percent of the 50 families served by PAFT disrupted by the end of the service period, the median of which was 3.5 months. Among 34 families referred to the program but not receiving services, 6 adoptions (18 percent) disrupted. There is no assessment of the comparability of these groups, however (Prew, Suter, and Carrington, 1990). The authors attribute PAFTs success to the idea of co-therapists, as well as helping parents better understand their childs behavior (Prew, 1990; Prew, Suter, and Carrington, 1990).

Family-focused services and contact with other adoptive families are associated with effectiveness.

Washington: Medina Childrens Services. In a collaboration between Medina Childrens Services (a well-established special needs adoption agency) and HOMEBUILDERS of Tacoma, Washington, 22 children and their adoptive families received 4 weeks of intensive in-home therapy (three to five sessions of 2 hours or more). Each full-time therapist handled a caseload of two families, allowing them to devote the necessary time to provide these services. One year after these special services were initiated, nine children remained with their adoptive families, nine petitioned for disruption, and four children were not living in the home (either in a group home or living on their own) but had not experienced disruptions. The disruption rate for this project ranged from 41 percent to 59 percent, depending on the status of the youth in transition (unpublished program documents).

Iowa: PARTNERS. Iowas Post-Adoption Resources for Training, Networking, and Evaluation Services (PARTNERS) program, piloted by Groze and colleagues, provided a continuum of services to adoptive families, including support groups, sustained adoption counseling, and intensive services (Barth, 1991; Groze, Young, and Corcran-Rumppe, 1991). Of the 39 families who participated in PARTNERS, 29 percent of the children were in out-of-home placements at the end of the service period. Groza cautions not to equate displacement with disruption and states that the children needed more intensive treatment than could be provided in the home at that time (Victor Groza, personal communication, May 18, 1999).

New England: Casey Family Services Program. CFS, based in Connecticut, offers post-adoption services in several New England states. Although structure and focus vary among the CFS divisions, the programs offer a broad array of services  typically including adoption information and education, counseling, advocacy, workshops, and facilitated support groups  open to any adoptive family. Services are generally short-term, with a median length of case opening of 5 months and a median of three sessions for families receiving family systems counseling. Based on a counselors assessment of family gains, strongest improvements were found in child behavior, understanding of adoptive issues, and effective communication, with less change in child-family attachment. Gains appear to be greatest among cases with longer duration and more counseling sessions received (Gibbs, Barth, and Lenerz, 2000).

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