Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Evaluation Issues. 2.1.2 Characteristics of Children and Families Served


It is common practice for case managers providing health and social services, often at intake and assessment, to regularly collect data on the characteristics of children and families served. In the case of PAS programs, evaluators have used the data gathered by case managers and program staff as part of a process evaluation, yielding a range of potentially useful information to guide PAS program direction and service delivery.

Data on families and children served include basic demographic information, history prior to adoption, risk to adoption, family problems and strengths, and family functioning. Clinical instruments are sometimes used to describe child and family functioning, as well as to provide a baseline for outcome evaluations. These instruments are discussed in Section 2.1.5.

Exhibit 2-4 shows the types of data collected to describe characteristics of children and families served in three PAS programs: the Casey Family Services Post-Adoption Program, the Illinois Adoption/Guardianship Preservation Program, and Massachusetts's Adoption Crossroads program. The Casey and Illinois evaluations go beyond the demographic, risk to adoption, and initial contact and assessment data collected in the Massachusetts Adoption Crossroads evaluation to collect more detailed information on the circumstances of the adoption, service history, family functioning, and history of maltreatment.

Data collection strategies vary among these programs. In the Illinois Adoption/Guardianship Preservation Program, the program's evaluators drew from intake forms and closing summaries to collect information on the characteristics of children and families served and the range of problems identified at intake/time of referral to PAS. For the Massachusetts Adoption Crossroads program, evaluators used data taken from entries in the client database made by intake workers and regional response team members to create a client profile. The profile described the magnitude of the family's problem, family's demographic profile, risk to adoption, and a case assessment (most salient or pressing needs). Casey Family Services workers collected data from families at the time of case opening.

Although Massachusetts is the only case-study state to have reported on characteristics of children and families served, other case-study states report having collected this information and using it to prepare summaries in monthly or annual program reports.

Exhibit 2-4.
Examples of Evaluations of Child and Family Characteristics
Program Measures Data Collection Method
Casey Family Services Post-Adoption Program, New England
  • Demographics
  • Characteristics of adoption
  • Service history
  • Family clinical picture
Intake forms developed by program staff
Adoption/Guardian-ship Preservation Program, Illinois
  • Demographics
  • History prior to adoption
  • If previous ward: placement history
  • Current history (e.g., subsidy receipt, mean age at referral, served previously)
  • Family type (matched, relatives, foster parents, etc.)
  • Diagnosed disability
  • History of maltreatment and multiple types of maltreatment
  • Family problems (primary problem, problem severity, duration of primary problem)
  • Stability of the child's placement
  • Parental commitment to the child
  • Assessment of child behaviors
  • Assessment of child emotional issues
Intake forms developed by program staff
Adoption Crossroads, Massachusetts
  • Demographics
  • Reason for contact
  • Magnitude of problem
  • Risk to adoption
  • Case assessments (e.g., most salient and pressing needs)
Client database

View full report


"report.pdf" (pdf, 399.11Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®