Methods: The study uses a quasi-experimental design to develop estimates of the effect of a post-permanency outreach and assessment program on helping caregivers access and receive services to meet the needs of adopted children and private wards. Administrative data were used to target the intervention on 1,980 households with at least one adopted child or private ward aged 13 or 16 years old. The comparison group consists of 2,178 households with adopted children or private wards aged 12, 14, 15 or 17 years old. A follow-up telephone survey was conducted with caregivers on a stratified random sample of 355 households in the intervention group and 355 in the comparison group. The completion rate for the survey was 65 percent.
Results: The allocation of households by child-age categories yielded groups that were statistically equivalent by race, gender, and average age within the bounds of chance error. Survey data indicate that 34% of families who sought services were unable to receive at least one of the services sought. Counseling was the most frequently sought (37%) and usually received service (89%) followed by family therapy, day care, and psychiatric services. Orthodontia was the most frequently sought (16%) and less often received service (51%) followed by respite care (60%). There were no significant differences in services sought and received between the intervention and comparison groups. Unmet needs as assessed from the follow-up survey were highest among families who did not receive the intended intervention because of refusals or the inability of outreach workers to contact the family.
Conclusions and Implications: The majority of families that adopted or took legal guardianship of children from foster care in Illinois report no special needs or no problems in accessing post-permanency services they need (76%). There were no significant differences in the distribution of child needs or services sought and received between intervention and comparison groups. Service needs among children adopted or taken into guardianship from foster care are no less efficiently accessed through annual certification mail-outs or telephone surveys compared to special outreach and assessment efforts by agency workers.