Abstract: Virtual Support Groups Among Adoptive Parents: Ideal for Information Seeking? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

425P Virtual Support Groups Among Adoptive Parents: Ideal for Information Seeking?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Melissa Segress, Executive Director, Training Resource Center, University of Kentucky, KY
Justin "Jay" Miller, PhD, Associate Dean for Research, University of Kentucky, KY
Morgan Cooley, PhD, Asst Professor, Florida Atlantic University, FL
Theresia Pachner, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background: In recent years, there has been a proliferation in the use of virtual platforms to host support groups for a range of populations. Despite the use of these platforms within areas of child welfare, namely post-adoptive services, research in this area has not kept pace. Few works, if any, have examined information seeking effectiveness, and how it is impacted by participant satisfaction with virtual platforms used to implement support group services.  

Methods: The overarching purpose of this study was to investigate perceptions of a virtual video-conferencing platform utilized for an adoptive parent (N=30) support group, and examine the relationship between these perceptions and information seeking effectiveness. With the Technology Acceptance Model as a guiding theoretical framework, this study addressed the following research questions: What were participant perspectives about the platform used to facilitate the virtual support group; What are the relationships between platform assessment variables and information seeking effectiveness; and, What aspects of the platform assessment predict perceptions of information seeking effectiveness?

To answer these queries, researchers collected primary data at the end of a 10-week pilot period of an adoptive parent support group piloted in one southeastern state. The initial pilot of the program took place during Summer 2018.The overarching goal of the program was to foster a supportive, empathetic environment for adoptive parents to access pertinent information. To collect data, researchers used an adapted four-scale platform assessment instrument (Arbaugh, 2000) and the Information Seeking Effectiveness (ISE) Scale (Nambisan, 2009).

Results: Overall, participants in the group agreed the virtual platform was a useful and flexible tool for implementing the support group. Additionally, participants perceived that the platform facilitated appropriate group interaction and participants were satisfied with group membership. Participants in this study also perceived that the online platform provided an effective means of receiving information – information seeking effectiveness was the highest rated variable of those included in the study. With the exception of perceived flexibility, the other three independent variables were significant predictors of information seeking effectiveness. Specifically, perceived group interaction was the strongest predictor (β = .718, p < .01), followed by satisfaction with group membership (β = .713, p < .001) and perceived usefulness (β = .624, p < .01). The overall model explained 57.5% of the variance in participants’ perceived information seeking effectiveness.

Implications: This study uniquely contributes to the literature and is one of the first known studies to examine ISE among adoptive parent support groups. Results inform salient implications for virtual platforms, information seeking practices, and empirical relationships between the two. Participants who engage in this presentation will: (a) understand the potential for technology in proffering support groups; (b) understand the wide-array of virtual platforms that can be used for social services; and, (c) understand findings related to this study, and the pragmatic implications associated with these data.      


Arbaugh, J. B. (2000). Virtual classroom characteristics and student satisfaction with Internet-based MBA courses. Journal of Management Education, 24(1), 32–54.