Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Case Study Report. 9.2.2 Program Goals and Eligibility

11/01/2002

Program developers make several decisions in the design process, based on their assessment of how best to balance needs and available resources. Two fundamental choices are the specification of program goals and which families will be eligible. Although based on pragmatic considerations, these decisions have potentially far-reaching policy implications.

The PAS programs studied shared a goal of preserving adoptive families, but varied in the strategies chosen to reach this goal.

All of the programs studied shared a common goal of keeping adoptive families intact, although the services they delivered in working toward this goal varied across states. More variation was seen in the extent to which programs worked to influence the service delivery environment. Only one program identified an explicit goal of changing service delivery systems through the efforts of its PAS providers to develop service networks. However, four of five programs offered training for mental health, education, and legal professionals likely to serve adoptive families. Considering systems change from a different perspective, Oregon chose not to offer counseling through its PAS program to maintain pressure on the county mental health system to provide the level of services needed by adoptive and other families. Although providing adoptive families with the services they currently need is a logical priority for PAS programs, systems change efforts also are necessary to increase the extent to which other service delivery systems can meet the needs of adoptive families.

Restrictions on the type of adoptive families served limited the potential impact of PAS programs.

Three of the five states in this study restricted eligibility for at least some of their services to families that had adopted from their states child welfare system. Although adoption program managers defended this as a means of conserving scarce program resources, it raises two concerns. First, the effort to increase the rate of adoptions from foster care will be hampered if families that subsequently move across state lines have limited access to PAS. Second, if PAS programs are believed to reduce the likelihood of out-of-home placements or adoption dissolutions, restricting access for families that have adopted privately or from other states might increase the eventual risk of needing high-cost services for these families. PAS programs might be more effective in both preserving adoptive families and encouraging adoptions from foster care if they are able to serve all adoptive families.

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