Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 2.4 Adoption Disruption

11/01/2002

Using the foster care placement files, we next examined the subject of how many children experienced an adoption disruption, that is, had placements coded as an adoptive home but ultimately were not adopted. There were 54,747 children who initially entered placement in North Carolina from July 1, 1989, through June 30, 2001. The North Carolina longitudinal placement data files track all placements experienced by these children. There were 463 children who had a first placement recorded as an adoptive home. A full 77 percent of these children subsequently exited placement to adoption. Only 5 percent of these first placements were still in the placement authority of the state when the files were created. The remaining 18 percent of children might have experienced disruptions in adoptive placement or had changes in their adoption plans for other reasons, including reunification, emancipation, running away, or a conversion to a guardianship. At this time, we cannot determine the ultimate case status of these children who had an adoption plan. North Carolina did not record all of these exit reasons until July of 1997, when they added this feature in order to meet their AFCARS requirement. Thus in future years, this information about children who had an adoption plan, but were not adopted and no longer have such a plan, will be available.

A larger group of children (2,657) entered foster care for reasons other than adoption but were subsequently in a home that was identified as an adoption placement. The majority of these children (59 percent) have subsequently exited placement to adoption; another 10 percent were still in the placement authority of the state, very possibly still en route to adoption. This leaves 31 percent of children who had an adoption plan  at one time  but no longer have one. Again, this group could include some adoption disruptions, but is also likely to include many more children who left the placement authority of North Carolina for other reasons. We cannot determine the difference.

The apparent imprecision in recording of the pathway to adoption is also demonstrated by the finding that the majority of children (65 percent) who achieve permanency through adoption are never placed in an identified "adoptive home." These are most likely foster children who are adopted by foster parents without ever having been identified in the data system as changing status from foster to adoptive homes. This suggests that case plan goals are often not updated in a complete or timely fashion  this is a common finding in research using administrative foster care data systems. Taken together, then, the data do not support an effort to precisely estimate adoption disruption rates in North Carolina. They do indicate, however, that this will become more possible in future years.

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