Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 3.2 CLAS Data on Services and Subsidies

11/01/2002

Participants in CLAS are all adoptive parents in California; thus far they have completed questionnaires at three points in time across roughly an eight-year period following their adoptions (1990, 1992, and 1996). This survey of parents of about 300 former foster youth provides a range of information about their children and the families' use of post-adoption services, some of which has been previously reported (Brooks, Allen, and Barth, 2002). Data from the CLAS study include information on a broad range of psychological, social, economic, and relational characteristics of adoptive families in California. There is a substantial amount of additional information about behavioral problems and children and subsidy changes that have not been described and related analyses that might better explain the use of post-adoption services. Additional analyses were, therefore, conducted for this report.

Youth receiving subsidies are more likely to have severe behavior problems.

The key question in this analysis has to do with whether or not children's behavior is associated with early changes in subsidy payments, also known as adoption assistance. Of the 288 adopted foster children in this sample, exactly equal numbers (144) either received or did not receive Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) funds within two years of their placement in their adoptive homes (Wave 1). Using Wave 1 as a starting point for measuring their trajectories in their placements for the subsequent six years reveal some interesting patterns. First, membership in either group (AAP-Yes or AAP-No) remains stable throughout the placement. For example, approximately 90 percent of those in the AAP-Yes group continued receiving AAP funds at Waves 2 and 3. Close to 80 percent of the original total continued to receive funds at Wave 3. For the AAP-No group, 87 percent of the original total remained in the AAP-No group six years later (see Exhibit 18 for tree diagrams that show these data).

Second, for the AAP-Yes group that consistently received AAP throughout the placement, the percentage of youth with Behavior Problems Index (BPI) scores in the clinical range ranged from 37 percent (at Wave 1) to 43 percent (at Wave 2). In comparison, the percentage of youth with BPI scores in the clinical range (noted as HBPI in the figures below) from families that consistently did not receive AAP was less  ranging from 21 percent (at Wave 1) to 32 percent (at Wave 2). These data suggest that while some families do manage to care for children with high levels of behavior problems without subsidies, the likelihood of having a subsidy and maintaining it is greater for those families with children who score in the problem behavior range.

Exhibit 18.
Subsequent Subsidy Use for Children at the Time of Adoption, Current Age, and Clinical BPI Scores

Exhibit 18. Subsequent Subsidy Use for Children at the Time of Adoption, Current Age, and Clinical BPI Scores

Perhaps most informative are the families that were not receiving AAP during Wave 1 but began receiving it in later waves. Among those families that switched from no AAP at Wave 1 to AAP atWave 2, the proportion with HBPI were 21 percent at Wave 1 and 73 percent at Wave 2. Most of these families continued to get AAP at Wave 3  half of them had a child with a HBPI score. Among those that reverted back to not getting AAP by Wave 3, only 33 percent had HBPI scores. Subsidy amounts were available only for Wave 3 and are shown as the average amount for each group receiving subsidy. While not differing greatly among groups, subsidies appear higher for children who initiated them earlier rather than later.

Although the opportunity to follow subsidies across time and to merge these patterns with scores on children's behavior is promising, the CLAS analysis is plagued by small numbers of cases. The data do suggest, nonetheless, that families are more likely to transition from no subsidy to subsidy because behavior problems increase, although the reasons that families stop their subsidy use are less clear (i.e., there is less evidence that their subsidies have gone down when problems are reduced). These preliminary findings indicate that families obtain subsidies in order to cope with children who have behavior scores that place them in the clinical range.

These impressions are further supported by their descriptive remarks about the subsidy program and how they understood it and used it. These are provided (in their entirety) in Appendix B and very often show the way that having the subsidy allowed the family to purchase needed services. Four consecutively recorded responses provide a flavor of the role of AAP and the ways that it is used to support families in their efforts to provide compensatory activities for children.

  • The foster care grant we originally received really helped. We are not "overly wealthy" and when Fiona was a baby the AAP subsidy helped to pay 2/3 of the cost of her childcare. We continue to need and use the money to provide a better life for our daughter. Some of her medical costs we pay with this money. We also used it to pay costs of preschool and the school that she now attends. During the summer we use the money to send her to Y camp. Without this money we would not be able to afford these extras.
  • It costs a lot more than what the AAP gives you to help out when children have problems.
  • My insurance does not cover counseling, nor does my husband's. So AAP comes in very handy.
  • We greatly desired to adopt children and did so not even knowing AAP was available, but what a wonderful help it has been to us and we are very grateful. It would be a great struggle to provide some of these things without AAP.

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