Abstract: Support Within, Between, and Outside: A Triage of Support Among Adoptive and Guardianship Families (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Support Within, Between, and Outside: A Triage of Support Among Adoptive and Guardianship Families

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Mint, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Roni Diamant-Wilson, PhD, Research Associate, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Joan Blakey, PHD, Chair, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Nancy Rolock, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Background/Purpose: As part of the exploration phase of the QIC-AG project, a team of adoptive/guardianship families and service providers was assembled to determine the direction of the Wisconsin project. This team developed a theory of change asserting that adoptive parents and guardians often report feeling ill-equipped to meet the needs of their children. In an effort to help these families, service providers offer a variety of interventions, yet some families continue to report unmet needs. Left unaddressed, these issues may result in familial instability or diminished wellbeing. While the team explored several interventions, none of them satisfied the stakeholders’ need of providing support to families after adoption or guardianship. In response, the project team developed Adoption and Guardianship Enhanced Support (AGES). This paper reports on results based on QIC-AG’s development and testing of this intervention.

Methods: Using grounded theory, one to two in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 AGES participants. All of the interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis consisted of reading the interviews line-by-line multiple times and verifying open coding by two researchers. Axial coding was then used to create subcategories followed by selective coding that integrated and refined the theory. Categories and themes identified through coding were used to create hypotheses that reflected the participants’ experiences.

Results: Consistent with the project-developed theory of change, data analysis revealed that adoptive parents and guardians felt more equipped to meet their children’s needs when the AGES program provided them with three types of support: Support Within, Support Between, and Support Outside. Support Within consisted of helping family members develop a shared vision and goals which allowed them to move forward in the same direction. By being an outside person to bounce ideas off of, AGES caseworkers played a vital role during home visits by engaging in open discussions that helped to build bridges between family members. Support Between included sharing information and improving relationships between families and service providers which often involved correctly diagnosing problems and providing appropriate interventions. Finally, Support Outside involved caseworkers finding resources that adoptive parents and guardians did not know existed, helping them gain access to those resources, and advocating on their behalf. Prior to the AGES intervention, families who asked for support often felt dismissed, blamed, and shamed for not being able to help their children.

Conclusion/Implications: AGES participants reported almost immediate relief from the support provided by the AGES workers. Confirming the theory of change, families reported that support was key to helping them through difficult times and feeling more hopeful because of AGES. The three types of support provided to adoptive parents and guardians in the AGES program enabled them to have the needed information and resources to better parent their children, enhance their relationships within families and outside providers, and transform adoptive and guardianship placements that were at risk of discontinuity.