Most studies of adoption disruption, dissolution, or displacement have not relied solely on administrative data (cf. Goerge, Howard, and Yu, 1996). These studies have relied on case record reviews and interviews labor intensive and costly approaches that are difficult to replicate in subsequent years, to determine if rates are varying. Yet the relative success of AFCARS, and the Multi-State Data Archive at Chapin Hall argue that there are substantial efficiencies to be had in the development of data capacity that does allow for the analysis of such events.
Adoptions can end in several ways. Adoptions that disrupt are foster care placements with the intent of ending in adoption that end before parental rights and responsibilities are transferred to the adoptive parents. Dissolutions occur when a legally finalized adoption is legally ended. This may occur either by a vacation of the adoption order by the court, by the adoptive parents relinquishing their rights or consenting to another's adoption of the child, or by the court terminating the adoptive parents' rights and responsibilities. Displacement occurs when a child leaves the parental home, although the parents maintain their legal relationship with, and responsibilities for, the child. Examples of displacements are children who leave home against parental permission, go into residential care, are incarcerated, or enter mental health hospitalization. Conceptually, there are two types of displacements those that include continued parental involvement with the child and those in which the parents have given up efforts to be involved as parents, even though the adoption still legally exists on paper (J. Magruder, personal communication, August 4, 2002). We did not find data that expressly address disruption, dissolution, or displacement (of either type) of adoption we have had to infer this from manipulating administrative data.
The single study that has used administrative data to study disruptions and dissolutions (Goerge, Howard, and Yu, 1996) was set in Illinois. In the course of examining multiple spells of children in foster care, the investigators determined that some of the children who were entering foster care had case information that matched to a great extent, but not perfectly children who had previously exited foster care to adoption. The authors interpreted these adoptions as having ended, although it is also possible that these replacements into foster care were displacements rather than disruptions or dissolutions. The authors determined which children had previously been adopted and were now experiencing a dissolution (about 4 percent) and which children had been placed for adoption and had reentered foster care without ever having completed the adoption (about 14 percent). Because states may sharply differ in the way that they define an adoptive placement, these figures may or may not be meaningful in cross-state comparisons. Nonetheless, this effort provided a prototype for the work with North Carolina data, described in the following section.
"report.pdf" (pdf, 1.44Mb)