Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. Introduction

11/01/2002

Most adoptions have positive outcomes for both children and their families. However, many families need supportive services during some part of their child's development. For some, the needs for post-adoption services are quite extensive and may threaten the adoption's survival. In response to these needs, many states have developed post-adoption service (PAS) programs designed to prevent adoption disruptions or dissolutions and to support child and family well-being. As discussed elsewhere (Barth, Gibbs, and Siebenaler, 2001), these services may be provided by public agency adoption workers, by private providers under direct contract with the adoption services program, or by families who receive adoption subsidies and use those to purchase needed services. Services received by adoptive families may be classic "post-adoption services" insofar as they address adoption-related issues, or they may be other educational, vocational, recreational, health, or mental health services that would be little different from those used by other families raising children with special needs.

This report is part of a series that examines these rapidly growing and evolving PAS programs, using a literature review (Barth, Gibbs, and Siebenaler, 2001), case studies of well-regarded programs (Gibbs, Siebenaler, Harris, and Barth, 2002) and, here, the analysis of secondary adoption data. In this report we discuss efforts to learn more about the relationship between adoption subsidies and post-adoption services. We have looked for secondary data for three related purposes: (1) to better understand the use of subsidies for purchase of services; (2) to illuminate post-adoption service use provided byВ  or funded byВ  public adoption agencies; and (3) to describe the disruption, dissolution, and displacement of adoptions. In all of these searches we have been stymied by the highly confidential nature of adoption dataВ  that is, states and agencies are often unable or unwilling to share data about adopted children and their families, given the historically high levels of confidentiality afforded to them.

In this exploratory work, we planned to pursue information about subsidies and the dissolution and disruption of adoptions from administrative foster care and adoption data held by California, North Carolina, and New Jersey. The analyses were expected to illustrate some of the possibilities of this work and to identify barriers. Ultimately, we were only able to obtain relevant data from California and North Carolina.

Before presenting findings from those analyses, we briefly review the available information about the role of adoption subsidies in order to identify some assumptions that this effort attempted to test. We then introduce some additional considerations about data related to adoption disruption, dissolution, and displacement. We finish with some observations about these findings and directions for future research.

This project was funded by the Administration on Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), under contract to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). Research was conducted by RTI and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We appreciate the participation of the North Carolina Department of Social Services and the California Department of Social Services.

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