Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Case Study Report. 9.5 Conclusion

11/01/2002

The field of PAS is young and evolving rapidly as states implement creative responses to the perceived needs of adoptive families. Although adoption program managers have recognized the importance of these services for years, recent access to federal resources has greatly expanded availability. The five programs described in this report (as well as many in other states) have developed services that did not exist previously and have provided adoptive families with services that most had never had access to before.

Evaluation and comprehensive planning could extend the effectiveness of PAS programs.

As the value of PAS gains recognition, the need for stronger evaluation and more comprehensive planning becomes more pressing. States need better data with which to estimate the number and characteristics of families needing services and how this population is likely to change in coming years. Adoption program managers are called on both to meet the current needs of adoptive families and to work for system changes that increase the responsiveness of service delivery systems. To respond to these sometimes conflicting priorities, they will need to plan their PAS programs in the context of other service systems and other supports available to adoptive families.

Evaluation of PAS programs is hampered by the ongoing evolution of the field and the premium placed on tailoring services to family needs. As the field matures, however, evaluation information is increasingly essential. Careful analysis of families use of and satisfaction with existing PAS programs can help states tailor their programs to changing populations of adoptive families. Finally, it is particularly incumbent on the well-established PAS programs to invest in outcome evaluations. Findings from these evaluations will be essential in documenting the value of PAS programs, improving accountability among providers and public agencies, and expanding the knowledge base about best practices.

ENDNOTE

(1) Among the PAS programs considered for the case study, Maine had begun and Illinois had completed extensive evaluations (they appear to be unusual in this way).

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