Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Summary Report. 2.6 Discussion


PAS programs have yet to develop consistent service classifications or a research base for program effectiveness.

The purposes and processes of PAS vary widely. There is no centralized source of information about which post-adoption service programs are operating with which populations and procedures. A classification scheme for PAS interventions must be established before significant strides can be made in studying the most efficacious approaches. This must then be joined with a consistent means to describe presenting problems of families who might benefit from post-adoptive services.

Families seek post-adoption services for many reasons, including crises that threaten the stability of the adoption; gathering general information about an adoption issue (e.g., open adoption or transracial adoption); normalizing the adoption experience; and searching for biological parents in closed adoptions. Families also bring many differing experiences to post-adoption services. PAS providers seem to have taken an approach to PAS that embraces this diversity and welcomes all comers. Whereas there is some evidence that adoptive families created from different circumstances are more alike than different (Groza and Rosenberg, 1998), there is also evidence that the problems of children adopted from foster care are the most substantial (Smith and Howard, 2001).

Child welfare administrative data is not likely to provide information about the impact of PAS. Assessment of post-adoption services will require more intensive and costly methods, involving direct assessments of the well being of children and families. Parent reports on their childrens well-being are insufficient because of the data indicating that adoptive parents have high standards for their children (Barth and Miller, 2000). Randomized clinical trials will be necessary and seem feasible, although they will not be easily achieved because the numbers of similarly situated cases served by most agencies is small and because the culture of PASS is generally distant from such rigorous research methods.

These trials would also need to be based on new developments in interventions on behalf of adoptive families. The adoption field has long been dominated by psychodynamic approaches like attachment theory, which has not received substantial empirical support as the basis for interventions with troubled children and families (Burns, Hoagwood, and Mrazek, 1999; Weisz and Hawley, 1998). Interventions that have demonstrated efficacy with other troubled families (e.g., Huey, Henggeler, Brondino, and Pickrel, 2000) also deserve testing with adoptive families.


(1) Disruption refers to the breakup of an adoption prior to finalization; dissolution refers to the legal abolishment of the adoption. Displacements refer to out-of-home care with continued involvement of the adoptive family.

(2) See Appendix for a complete list of references. (Note: Not all materials in the bibliography are cited in this condensed version of the literature review prepared for this summary report.)


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