Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 4.1 Substantive Findings

11/01/2002

Differences in data availability and structure between North Carolina and California limit our ability to assess the generalizability of our findings. Yet some clear similarities and differences have emerged. Almost all (94 percent) of the children adopted from foster care in North Carolina received cash assistance subsidy payments. This is consistent with the findings from Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) that 88 percent of children who have been adopted in recent years are receiving subsidies. About half of them received the initial payment within one month of the final decree and almost all of the rest within six months of the decree. The amount of the subsidy payment remained unchanged for slightly over half of the children (51 percent)  some of them had the same subsidy amount for the full 10 years. For the rest there were gradual increases in the amount of cash payment that appear to occur as the child grows older.

These stable subsidy amounts appear to differ from those in California, although this cannot be confirmed because we do not have the population of all children who have ever had a subsidy in that state. Among the children for whom we have data, only 17 percent never had a payment change. Most children then, have had payment changes. In California, like North Carolina, many of these payment changes are routine subsidy increases  resulting from biannual recertification requirements  but there also appear to be fewer cases in which there are no changes. The probability of a payment change is associated with the prior number of payment changes. As prior payment changes occur, the rapidity of subsequent changes increases. Thus the number of payment changes provided could be used as a marker for outreach to families who may need additional guidance or assistance.

In North Carolina, 39 percent of children had a vendor payment made to purchase services on their behalf. Data on vendor payments are not available in the data that we have from California, as this is not common practice there. Instead, families purchase additional services following increases in subsidies. Thus, we can presume that more families in North Carolina would have had a subsidy increase if they had not had these additional vendor payments made on their behalf.

Relatively large subsidy increases in California are also associated with a few family characteristics  specifically, the child's age at the time of adoption and family income. Families at middle income levels  that is, not in the lowest quartile or the highest quartile  are the most likely to obtain larger subsidy increases. Also, families that have more-educated mothers obtain larger subsidies. Although we have some evidence from California Long-range Adoption Study (CLAS) data that subsidy increases are associated with the worsening of children's behavior, we also see that they are strongly associated with parental characteristics. The finding that relatively more educated and affluent families are likely to get larger subsidy increases could be a function of their taking on more difficult children, but this holds true after controlling for the ages of children. The equitability of adoption subsidy adjustments needs to be better understood. There appear to be no inequities in subsidies that are associated with the race of the children.

Children in the North Carolina data had received adoption assistance for an average of 3.5 years. However, since 90 percent of the children in the data were still receiving adoption assistance when the data files were created, it is expected that this estimate will increase with time. Only small proportions of the children in North Carolina and California had "aged out" of adoption assistance at the time of these analyses  our results suggest that many children continue to receive adoption assistance until they reach 18 years old.

Data in North Carolina support previous findings of low dissolution rates. We utilized two lines of analyses to estimate the rate of adoption dissolutions in North Carolina. First, we identified a cohort of children that had been adopted and were receiving adoption assistance and looked to see whether these children had entered placement authority after the final adoption decree. Second, we looked at children entering placement authority since July 1997 to determine the reunification rate for children who had been previously adopted. Although the results suggest that the risk of adoption dissolution in North Carolina is lower than that seen elsewhere, further analyses show that the risk is greater for older children and for minority children compared with infants and white children in the state. We were unable to definitively quantify disruption or displacement rates in North Carolina.

In California, we could study the transition from home to residential/group treatment for the relatively small proportion of children who used this option. Event history analysis indicates that age at placement, the number of prior payment changes, and  to a lesser extent  family income are associated with the use of state-funded residential care. (It is worth noting that some additional residential care could be provided for these children, many of whom are not yet adolescents.)

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