Abstract: Working and Caring for a Disabled Adopted Child in Times of Covid-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

347P Working and Caring for a Disabled Adopted Child in Times of Covid-19

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Claudia Sellmaier, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA
JaeRan Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Washington
Background: Parents of adopted children with disabilities experience high levels of stress, face barriers accessing services, and challenges to work-family fit. This study sought to understand changes in workplace, family, and community resources as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Methods: This study used a mixed-methods, anonymous online survey to collect data from adoptive parents of children with disabilities. Data were collected from June through the end of August 2020. The survey included 67 multiple choice and open-ended questions. The current study focused on the survey sections related to workplace, family, and community resources. Paired samples t-tests were used to assess changes of workplace and family resources before and after Covid-19. Open-ended questions asked participants to provide examples of how the pandemic had impacted their workplace, their family, and their experience with community resources. These responses were coded and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: The sample for this study included 198 parents with the majority identifying as Non-Hispanic White, and female. About 75% were employed and worked on average 32 hours/week. The most often cited diagnosis for the adopted child with a disability was learning disability (24.4%). T-test results showed that participants were less likely to be employed currently, but participants still employed reported significantly less difficulty taking time off (t(147) = 3.78 p =.00), significantly more access to (t(148) = -2.85, p=.01) and use of flexibility (t(149) = -2.55, p=.01), and significantly more supportive supervisors (t(144)=-2.61, p=.01). There were no significant changes in family flexibility, but participants reported significantly more challenges to integrate work and family demands (t(200)=-5.27, p=.00). Qualitative analysis found that changes in resource access related to Covid-19 impacted family life, access to services, work and economics. Remote education for children required major shifts for parents affecting access to special education services /IEP services. Working from home and remote education/services was difficult for many families since this blurred work and family boundaries. Some participants reduced hours, found new employment with more flexibility, or quit all together. Covid-19 had positive effects for some families. Participants reported a reduction of commuting time for work and service appointments, allowing for more family time and flexibility to arrange services. Others reported that the pandemic led to a more open and flexible atmosphere among colleagues and supervisors.

Conclusion: The Covid-19 pandemic revealed gaps and possibilities in existing policies and institutional structures for families with disabled adopted children in the US. Some education policies and services for disabled children were difficult to implement or non-existent. School systems need to reimagine how special education services will be implemented if students cannot attend class in-person. The ability for parents to flex their schedules helped them to better meet their child’s needs. Agencies could consider offering remote services as these might increase access for some families. More flexible workplace policies could continue post-pandemic. Despite the challenges, the pandemic highlights opportunities for more accessible services, enhancing work-family fit and employment.