Methods: Caregivers in adoptive or guardianship families in North Dakota were recruited through the joint efforts of North Dakota Post Adopt Network and North Dakota Department of Human Services in the fall 2020. Total 847 caregivers (mean age= 39.97) participated in the study and completed the online survey. Most households (92%) had two adult caregivers living at home. Their identified adoptive children were white (45%), American Indians/Alaska Native (22%), and Black (21%) (mean age=11.66). The North Dakota Permanency Survey was used to investigate child and family wellbeing, adoption/guardianship experiences, contacts with birth parents and siblings, caregiving commitment, and community services. Descriptive statistics, correlation, anova, t-test, and regression were used to analyze the quantitative data, and the qualitative data (from open-ended questions) was thematically analyzed to identify patterns and themes.
Results: 59% caregivers have never thought about ending their adoption/guardianship, 75% would definitely adopt or assume guardianship of their child again if they knew then what they know now, 87% rated the overall impact of adoption on their family as positive. Caregivers of kindship adoption and those who didn’t adopt through a public child-welfare agency reported higher levels of strains than those of non-kinship adoption and those adopted through the public system. Children of non-kinship adoption had better social and emotional well-being overall than children of kinship adoption. 14% caregivers indicated that their child had a mental health issue that impacted the daily functioning of children, 8.3 % has intellectual disability, and 8% has food challenges. Caregiving commitment and risk of discontinuity were significantly related to caregiver strains. 16-17% caregivers thought contacts with child’s birth parents was not important at all, and 25-28% had no contact in past six months. The most important and needed services/supports were one-stop service, health and mental health service, social support, education support, financial support, legal services, and respite.
Conclusions and Implications: The outcomes of this study increase identification of post-adoption service needs, risks, and protective factors, and improve capacity to deliver data-driven and relevant prevention and intervention services to families post permanency, and eventually enhance child and family wellbeing.