The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Need, Access, Utilization and Outcomes of Post-Adoption Services for Adoptive Families: Findings From the National Adoptive Families Study

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 3:00 PM
Nautilus 4 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Robin M. Hartinger-Saunders, PhD, LMSW, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Alex Trouteaud, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research, Anderson Press Incorporated, Atlanta, GA
Background and Purpose: The number of children adopted from the U.S. child welfare system has grown exponentially yet, research on the needs of adoptive parents and the effectiveness of post-adoption services has not followed suit. Foster and adoptive parents at the core of the U.S. child welfare system are often left unsupported and minimally informed about the complexities of caring for children with extensive, traumatic histories of maltreatment. Although studies exist that explore the needs of adoptive parents and service usage, few evaluate these in relation to adoption outcomes including disruptions and dissolutions. Author’s present data from an original research study that highlights the needs and experiences of adoptive families regarding access to, utilization of, and adoption outcomes associated with using or not using post-adoptive services.

Methods: The National Adoptive Families Study (NAFS) is a web-based survey of 437 parents who adopted children from the U.S. foster care system. Demographically and geographically, the sample compares favorably to characteristics observed in other national samples of adoptive families. The survey covered a broad array of subjects including family structure and processes before and after the adoption; post-adoptive services the family felt were needed; actual utilization of various post-adoptive services; and positive and negative adoption outcomes including disruption, dissolution, child wellness, and parent wellness. Participants were recruited through partnerships with several national foster parent and adoption resource organizations, through email and social media contact lists. Qualifying participants received a $5 gift card delivered electronically.

Results: As expected, the results of the study show that very few parents who adopted a child from the U.S. foster care system actually accessed specific post-adoptive services (between 6% and 34% for 14 categories of services assessed in the study). Moreover, in most cases half or more of adoptive parents who reported needing a specific post-adoptive service indicated they were not able to access such a service at any time; including case management services (51%), respite care (75%), and trauma-informed therapeutic services (62%).  OLS regression models of adoption outcomes show varying relationships between access to post-adoptive services and positive and negative outcomes. In modeling adoption dissolution with post-adoptive services accessed –  net of service need – we are able to predict 28% of the variance in adoption dissolution, R2=.28, F(28, 376)=5.15, p<.001, by knowing whether or not the family received parent training services, B=-.12, p<.05, and educational advocacy services, B=-.12, p<.05, (both services preventing dissolution), as well as whether or not the family received substance abuse services, B=.23, p<.01, and crisis intervention services, B=.23, p<.001, (both services uniquely associated with higher rates of dissolution).

Implications: This study provides critical information that fills significant voids in the social work and child welfare academic literatures by highlighting the complexity of the relationship between the need for, and access to post-adoptive services as they relate to adoptive family outcomes. Findings underscore the need for child welfare professionals to identify barriers to service use among adoptive families and to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of existing post-adoption services in relation to adoption outcomes.