|How satisfied are adoptive parents with the services they have received?|
What we know: Adoptive parents satisfaction with services available to them either from PAS programs or other community resources is a subjective indicator of the need for new or additional PAS. Many programs assess the extent to which participating families are satisfied with services provided by the PAS program (see, for example, Fine, 2000 and Hudson et al., 2002). Client satisfaction studies appear to generally indicate strong satisfaction with PAS program offerings. However, there are several concerns about the quality of their data. Studies vary widely in design sophistication, ranging from simple ratings to detailed assessments. Unless substantial effort is invested in follow-up, response rates may be so low as to compromise data validity. Response bias is also likely, particularly because few PAS programs contract with external evaluators, and much PAS evaluation data is collected by agency staff who may be associated with PAS delivery.
Several barriers may limit the usefulness of community services, including limited availability, cost, restricted access and poor match with family needs (Fine, 2000). Adoptive parents participating in focus groups as part of Casey Family Services evaluation described community providers as often lacking the necessary understanding and skills to address their families issues (Gibbs, Barth, and Lenerz, 2000). Taken together, these findings suggest that families may be unable to access the specific services they need in their communities, and that services available to them may fall short of being adoption-competent.
Moving forward: Satisfaction studies ideally should address the universe of services used by adoptive families in the community and through PAS programs. In this way, programs would not only know how satisfied families were with the PAS program services they received, but also whether they were providing the services needed. Such studies would also identify areas in which the PAS program could work toward advocacy and system change by increasing awareness of adoption issues within schools, or training mental health providers in adoption issues. Research in a limited number of communities with varying PAS availability, conducted by independent researchers, using both qualitative and quantitative methods, could illuminate such questions as the following:
- Which services can effectively be provided by existing resources, and which should be provided by PAS programs?
- In what areas is there a need to increase the adoption competence of service providers in health, mental health, and education systems?
- What other barriers to services need to be addressed for them to be accessible to adoptive families?
- What are the particular strengths of PAS programs, and in what areas could their service delivery be improved?