Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Evaluation Issues. 2.1.1 Needs Assessment


Needs assessments are designed to describe the kinds of services most needed by families. The pool of adopted children has grown dramatically in recent years, increasing the importance of accurate needs assessments for establishing and adapting PAS programs. These studies can be used to document the need for a PAS program and to support planning of services to be provided. State-sponsored needs assessments in the field of adoption have generally gathered information from surveys of families who adopted from a state's public welfare system and were receiving an adoption subsidy. However, a PAS program could also conduct a needs assessment of its existing client population. Contacting these families is facilitated by the fact that states keep contact information for subsidy payment purposes.

Needs assessments can provide useful information, including the following types of data:

  • services needed,
  • services received,
  • anticipated needs,
  • level of importance of the need by type of service, and
  • frequency of use of services

One limitation of needs assessments, as they are generally conducted, is that they lack the ability to determine the absolute number of adoptive families needing services, and the needs expressed by respondents may not represent those of the larger population of adoptive families. Accurate estimates of need would require follow-up efforts to maximize response rates and measures of nonresponse bias. States that offer PAS to families who adopted privately or internationally lack a sampling frame from which they can survey these families, whose needs may be substantially different from those of families adopting from the public child welfare system.

Despite these limitations, needs assessments are fairly commonly done. They are generally not published for circulation outside the sponsoring state, and the absence of standardized measures and categories would make synthesis challenging. Two examples of needs assessments are those conducted by Oregon (Fine, 2000) and Illinois (Howard and Smith, 2001), which are summarized in Exhibit 2-3 .

Exhibit 2-3.
Examples of Needs Assessments
State Measures Data Collection Method
  • Family background (e.g., household composition, location, proximity of relatives)
  • Information on the adopted child or children (e.g., current age and age at placement, home and school behaviors, race)
  • Services the family received during the previous year (e.g., support groups, residential treatment)
  • Satisfaction with services
  • Importance of receiving services in next year (by service)
  • Barriers (or problems) to receiving adoption-related services (in general)
  • Demographic characteristics of survey respondent (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, age, income, biological relationship to child)
Mail survey
  • Child and family characteristics
  • Families' preparation for adoption
  • Adoption subsidy
  • Child's adjustment in life domains
  • Children's health and mental health
  • Child's adjustment in home and school
  • Child's adjustment in neighborhood and community
  • Level of child's adjustment
  • Resources and services
  • Parental attitudes about adoption
  • Impact of adoption on family
  • Attachment in the parent-child relationship
  • Risk and protective factors influencing child behavior problems
  • Child factors predicting level of behavior problems
  • Parent factors predicting level of behavior problems
Mail survey

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