Adoptive parents who participated in the focus groups identified a range of service needs, some of which were services delivered by the state-directed PAS programs. The 32 adoptive families represented in the focus groups had adopted 76 children, 66 of whom were from the public child welfare system.
Respite Care and Activities/Events
Respite care was mentioned most often as a major need of families, across all states visited. Many adoptive parents described a dearth of available respite providers. Others mentioned the lack of respite providers qualified to deal with special needs children. Parents also expressed a need for more group activities for children and families to provide adopted children opportunities to interact with one another. In an evaluation report of Adoption Crossroads by Salem State College in Massachusetts, families noted the break from parenting provided by respite as the most helpful aspect of care.
|Parents felt they needed better information about available services.|
Adoptive parents in all five case-study states reported being unclear about what PAS services were available to them, saying they needed more information about services that they could access. As one parent stated, Services may be there, but parents dont hear about them. Another parent said that she did not want to feel lucky when she learned about something to help her child. Some parents also felt that they learned about services only in times of crisis and wanted to be knowledgeable about services before crises developed. As one parent said, I didnt realize adoption had the potential to be so crisis-laden. Not until a crisis occurred did I realize services were available. Another parent said, We shouldnt have to hit a crisis to get offered services. Parents in one group recommended establishing an all-inclusive program where adoptive parents could access counseling, advocacy, lawyers, respite, and other adoption-related services under one roof.
Adoptive parents in each state felt that training about adoption issues was a critical need. Although some parents mentioned that parent training currently was offered, they often had found that it did not meet their needs. Parents often stated that the training was offered too soon after adoption, before they had had enough experience with the issues to understand the training content. At the same time, however, other parents believed that the state pre-adoption training needed to be supplemented. I went through MAPP [pre-adoption training] and said that after adoptions they should have RE-MAPP. Parent training also was thought to be needed for issues such as adopting special-needs children and dealing with cultural issues around adoptions.
Adoptive parents saw education of medical and community professionals regarding adoption issues as extremely important. Most mentioned having trouble finding qualified therapists who were knowledgeable about adoption issues. Parents reported that their children were stigmatized by schools when it was discovered that they were adopted. One parent said, If the school finds out they are adopted, its like they get an X on their back. The school is quick to put the child out or think they will have problems. They wanted staff training as well as advocacy to help them deal with schools on their childs behalf.
Mental Health Services
Adoptive parents in most groups said that access to and funding for mental health services for their adopted child was a serious need. Parents were concerned about finding a provider as well as being able to pay for the services when they did find someone with whom they felt comfortable. They noted that many community providers either did not accept Medicaid or were not included among providers that they could use with their insurance.
Child Assessments, Evaluations, and Information
|Parents particularly wanted to have more information about their childs background, history, and current assessments, and to gain a better understanding of changing needs as their child ages.|
Adoptive parents wanted more comprehensive evaluations and assessments conducted on their adoptive child when they were placed and before finalization. Parents also wanted to know more about the childs and birth parents background before adoption finalization, saying that this information was critical in helping them understand the needs of their adopted children. Parents thought that more information on their childs background would help them better prepare for future difficulties, recognize problems when symptoms begin to occur, and solve current problems. Parenting would have been a lot easier if I would have had more information. Regardless of whether this information was available or would have been helpful, parents were frustrated at not having received it.
Adoptive parents also wanted more information on the physical and mental problems their child might have. In one state, parents suggested that a law be established to require that medical records be given to adoptive parents. Parents also mentioned needing more assistance in interpreting the records they did receive. One parent said that she still was unclear about what the information she had received actually meant. Another noted that when her daughter became a teenager and began severely acting out, she went to a nurse who translated the psychological and medical information from the adoption records.