Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 2.1 North Carolina Administrative Data

11/01/2002

Four different administrative data files maintained by the North Carolina Department of Social Services provided data for the analysis files used to examine adoption dissolution, adoption disruption, and adoption assistance in North Carolina. To define the population of children to be included in this study, three data files were merged: (1) summary information on each child receiving adoption assistance, (2) vendor payments made to other post-adoption service providers in the name of adopted children, and (3)records of adoption subsidy checks. The summary child-level file was first merged with the adoption subsidy check record file, and then information on payments to vendors was added into this merged file. The total number of unique ID numbers in this merged file was 12,067. Exhibit 1 summarizes the number of unique ID numbers in each data file.

Exhibit 1.
Unique IDs by Data Sources
Data table Number of unique IDs Data range
Adoption assistance child summary 11,018 1/18/1973 - 12/01/2001
Vendor payments 6,303 5/21/1990 - 6/20/2001
Adoption assistance check record 9,848 1/31/1990 - 7/13/2001

Since there are no records in the payment files prior to January 1990, children with a final order of adoption before January 1, 1990, or who had no information on the date of the final order were identified and deleted from the final analysis file, leaving a possible 8,647 children in this file. Our next step was to assess the quality of this data merge based upon DSS-assigned ID numbers.

Assignment of multiple ID numbers complicates analysis of adoptions.

In North Carolina, children adopted from the public child welfare agency may have up to three different ID numbers. The first ID number, the foster care ID number, is assigned when a child initially enters out-of-home placement. After the adoption decree is final and if the child is to receive adoption assistance, a second ID number is assigned to track these payments. Finally, should an adoption dissolve and a child reenter out-of-home placement, a third ID number may be assigned. To further complicate these analyses, if a child receives adoption assistance in the form of reimbursement for nonrecurring costs prior to the final decree of adoption, the payments are recorded under the foster care ID number. After the adoption is final, the child may receive cash assistance and/or vendor payments recorded under the second ID number. Given the confidentiality of the adoption process, multiple ID numbers for the same child are not linked, making it impossible to assess the experiences of children across the continuum of adoption events.

To address these issues, even though it is possible that adopted children received additional assistance under the foster care ID number, we limit our analyses of adoption assistance to cash assistance and vendor payments that occur after the final decree. Additionally, we developed an algorithm to assess whether there were children with multiple ID numbers in this study population. We identified 182 pairs of ID numbers for children with the same gender, birth date, and date of final adoption decree. Since this number was so small, less than 4 percent of the study population, it appears that our restriction algorithm for study inclusion effectively resulted in a mostly unduplicated count of children. Exhibit 2 summarizes the source of information for the 8,647 children in the final study population. All but 340 children in the final data set had a record of either receiving a cash assistance payment or a vendor payment made in their name. Over half of the children received both.

Exhibit 2.
Adoption Assistance Payment Summary
  Number of children
Children with no vendor or cash assistance payment record 340
Children with vendor payment but no cash assistance payment 199
Children with no vendor payment but cash assistance payment 3,067
Children with both vendor and cash assistance payments 5,041
Total children with final decree after 12/31/1989 + assistance 8,647

After using the vendor payment and adoption assistance data files to identify the study population and to analyze patterns of adoption subsidy, we accessed one additional source of information, the North Carolina longitudinal foster care placement data files. These files contain information on all children placed in out-of-home placement in North Carolina since the mid-1980s. The placement data files when linked to the cash assistance data provided the data necessary for studying adoption dissolution. Additionally, the placement data files provided data for the adoption disruption analyses. Exhibit 3 summarizes the source of data for each topical area under study. The results of the analyses are described in the sections that follow.

Exhibit 3.
Study Question by Sources of Data
  Adoption assistance
summary file
Vendor
payment records
Cash assistance
check record
Longitudinal
foster care file
Patterns of adoption assistance ü ü ü  
Adoption dissolution ü ü ü ü
Adoption disruption ü ü ü ü

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