Needs assessments, which many states performed recently or were in the process of conducting, are designed to describe the kinds of services most needed among the families surveyed, generally families receiving adoption subsidies. Without the persistent follow-up efforts needed to achieve high survey response, however, these assessments may not adequately represent the population of adoptive families.
Available data on the needs of adoptive families were not adequate to guide current PAS programs, nor to plan for future needs.
High-quality data on families needs would support a strong planning process. Needs assessments do not allow estimates of the number of adoptive families needing services, because it is not known how families responding to the survey differ from those who do not respond. Nor does this approach establish when, in terms of childrens ages or elapsed time since adoption, the various services are most likely to be needed. This information will be all the more valuable as the population of adopted children (and young adults) continues to expand, so that states can plan for adequate service availability. A national probability-based sample of adoptive families that are receiving subsidies would help to provide a picture of underlying needs among those families that have, and have not, obtained PAS from state sources.
The needs assessment process is ongoing. The needs of adoptive families are likely to evolve as PAS programs influence service delivery systems, as families mature, and as the characteristics of children being adopted change. As PAS programs increase their visibility within states and communities, they are becoming better situated to monitor these needs by compiling information on client characteristics and services needed. These data can become a valuable tool for ongoing planning and program adaptation.