Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Summary Report. 6.1.3 Service Needs


What services are most needed by different types of adoptive families?

What we know: Assessments of needs among adoptive families are commonly conducted by states. Approximately half of the states responding to the ILSU survey reported they were currently conducting a needs assessment or had done so within the past 10 years. Although their usefulness is often limited by low response rates and inconsistent methods, these surveys offer a general picture of services desired by adoptive families. These include educational and information resources, clinical services, material help in the form of subsidies and help with child care, and support networks. A sizeable minority of families  30 percent in an Oregon needs assessment  report that no services are needed at this time. When families receive service, they prefer working with providers who understand the long-term impact of early trauma and the unique dynamic of adoptive families.

These surveys typically use the most complete sampling frame available, the list of families receiving adoption subsidies, but one that is only a portion of all eligible families. We know less about the service needs and experiences of those families who do not receive subsidies. Although it is possible that they do not pursue subsidies because they have few service needs, they may also be underserved by the subsidy program, with fewer resources with which to address their needs. Most needs assessments also exclude families who have adopted privately or from other countries.

Moving forward: Our understanding of the needs of adoptive families could be substantially improved by two measures. First, development of a standardized needs assessment instrument for states voluntary use could reduce design costs, increase the comparability of data over time and across states, and  in some cases  improve data quality. Second, a population-based survey of adoptive families, with adequate follow-up to ensure high response rates, would provide needed data on topics such as

  • How do the needs of adoptive families vary across states and between rural and urban families?
  • Are states with active PAS programs demonstrating a reduction in unmet need among adoptive families?
  • Who are the families currently not being served by PAS programs?
  • How do the needs of adoptive families vary by child characteristics and adoption history?
  • How do needs vary among families receiving no subsidy and those receiving varying levels of subsidy?
  • If private and international adoptions are included, how do their needs differ from those of families who adopt from the public child welfare system? Which families are at risk of needing high-cost services?

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