Abstract: Factors Associated with the Strengths and Needs of Adoptive and Guardianship Families (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Factors Associated with the Strengths and Needs of Adoptive and Guardianship Families

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 9, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kevin White, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Laura Marra, MSSW, Senior Research Coordinator, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Monica Faulkner, PhD, LMSW, Director, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Valerie Wood, PhD, Research and Evaluation Core Function Coordinator, University of Vermont, VT
Nancy Rolock, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Rowena Fong, EdD, Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: The number and percentage of youth who exit foster care to adoption/guardianship has increased in recent decades— from approximately 44,000 in 1998 to 83,000 in 2016 (17% and 33% of exits, respectively). Although this increase in adoptive/guardianship placements for foster youth is generally positive, between 5-20% of children who exit foster care through adoption/guardianship experience placement instability or adjustment problems such as elevated child behavior problems or low family functioning and cohesion. Thus, prevention interventions are needed to support adoptive/guardianship families in order to improve familial stability and wellbeing.  

As part of the federally-funded National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation, this study analyzed data from two sites in the U.S. (one state and one county public child welfare system) that implemented a universal prevention effort: a survey and outreach program to all adoptive and guardianship families within their districts. For this study, data was compiled from both sites to examine the child, caregiver, and interpersonal factors associated with four short-term outcomes (child behavior problems, caregiver strain, family functioning, and caregiver nurturing and attachment), which were expected to relate to long-term outcomes of placement discontinuity and diminished child and family well-being, based on previous research.

Methods: Using survey data obtained from caregivers of children who exit foster care through adoption/guardianship in two sites (N = 942), this study examined the relationships between 11 child and caregiver demographic factors, as well as caregiver commitment to the child, and four short-term outcomes, measured using standardized scales. First, bivariate statistical analyses were used to examine the individual relationships between covariates and outcomes. Next, four stepwise OLS regression models were estimated that included just those predictors that were significant in bivariate models. Because the five questions that related to caregiver commitment were all associated with the short-term outcomes, these questions were summed to create a single caregiver commitment measure (α = .76) and used as a predictor in the four regression models.

Results: Results from bivariate and multivariate tests indicated that caregiver commitment to the child was negatively related to child behavior problems and caregiver strain, but positively related to family functioning and caregiver nurturing and attachment. In addition, a kinship relationship between caregiver was associated with better outcomes in some statistical analyses. Finally, statistically significant relationships were found between caregiver age and outcomes, but the nature of this relationship was not clear. Multivariate models explained a small to moderate amount of variance in the short-term outcomes, with adjusted R2 ranging from .17 to .52.

Conclusions and Implications: This study provides information about how prevention outreach with adoptive/guardianship families can identify families who may be at highest risk for adjustment difficulties. This study provides information to those who aim to provide prevention services to increase wellbeing for adoptive/guardianship families, and researchers interested in developing standardized measures of wellbeing for adoptive and guardianship families.