Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 2.6 Summary

11/01/2002

These analyses serve multiple purposes. First, the analyses provide substantial instruction about the way that adoption data may be organized and some possible strategies for gaining information from them. In North Carolina adoption data are maintained in the foster care system (which indicates whether or not children placed into foster care had ever been adopted and whether children leave to adoption), in a payment system (which indicates whether there have been subsidies or vendor payments), in special manualized systems (for particular programs like those for HIV-affected children), and in the adoption information system (which contains information about the adoptive family and the circumstances of the adoption). The finding that the adoption data are in several places may be more typical than unusual, although work with more states will be required before determining whether any state has a typical system. North Carolina's data does not allow for a precise estimation of adoption dissolutions or displacements. To accomplish this, several adjustments would need to be made in the way data about reentries into foster care from adoptive families are collected.

Analysis of disruptions could also be improved if more specific information were collected about the reasons that adoption plans were terminated. The utility of this improvement would depend, ultimately, on how comprehensively adoption plans were identified in the data. If adoption plans are not recorded in a consistent and timely way, then timely information about disruptions of plans that do occur cannot tell the total story. We believe that many states currently lack the capacity to accurately record case plans.

These analyses suggest methodologies that could be useful in other states.

These analyses also demonstrate analytic methodologies that could be used to explore these issues in other states. Moreover, they highlight the critical need to consistently assign identification numbers at various points in time across the placement-adoption time continuum. It is possible to link multiple data files only when there is confidence in this process.

Equally important, the analyses provide substantive information about children who receive adoption assistance and describe the continuity of support provided by these important programs to adopted children in North Carolina. The analyses suggest that most adopted children in North Carolina receive some form of cash assistance support. Cash payments begin very soon after the final decree is entered and usually continue until the child reaches the age of 18. Although this report does not provide analyses of other sources of support for families with adopted children in North Carolina, it is important to acknowledge these here. In addition to cash assistance payments, North Carolina provides special supplements for adopted children with HIV and for children with substantial functional impairments. Because these programs have special requirements and payment structures, their accounting is not automated. Thus, they are not included in these analyses. North Carolina also makes all children who are adopted (except those with their own income) Medicaid eligible. In addition to the cash assistance payments, the state provides support to adoptive children in the form of vendor payments to cover the cost of special services, especially counseling and medical services when Medicaid coverage is exhausted.

Another area of analyses examines the likelihood that an adoption in the state will dissolve or disrupt. Because these analyses try to adapt data historically collected in legacy systems for administrative purposes, the data for these analyses are more tenuous than the adoption subsidy data. North Carolina has a low reentry to out-of-home placement rate so it perhaps should not be surprising that the adoption dissolution rate is also extremely low. Problems with the assignment of new client identification numbers and the inconsistency of these data across the state's 100 counties suggest that the state should undertake additional training and analyses to better understand adoption dissolution in North Carolina.

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