A disproportionate number of families endure wellbeing difficulties, including child behavior problems, poor family functioning, and diminished caregiver commitment. Racial and socioeconomic disparities endemic to the child welfare system potentially inhibit positive adjustment for families who adopt or assume guardianship of foster children from diverse backgrounds. More research is needed to support adoptive/guardianship families, especially families most at risk for poor wellbeing outcomes.
Methods: This symposium will report from two sources of information from adoptive parents and guardians: two studies that used in-depth interviews and two that relied on surveys with adoptive parents and guardians.
In the first study, interviews with 32 public and private adoptive parents and guardians were reviewed, recorded, transcribed, and coded using a grounded theory approach. A post-permanency struggle index was created that illuminates how caregiver commitment varied by the struggle index, a particularly complex phenomena in families who were struggling with serious issues.
The second study used data from surveys (n=809) to examine the service needs and barriers for adoptive or guardianship families. Participants were asked in open-ended questions to describe the services and supports they felt were most important and most needed for families as well as identify barriers to these services as supports. Responses were double-coded, reviewed and analyzed using an inductive approach to qualitative content analysis.
The third study used implementation science framework to develop a new intervention. The intervention was designed to provide flexible supports to families in real time. Findings from interviews with a pilot sample (n=32) found that families need a variety of types of support, and that flexible service delivery is a key factor to the provision of services and supports for adoptive and guardianship families.
The final paper uses data from surveys with adoptive parents and guardians in four states (n=2,750) to understand how often children or youth experienced informal post-permanency discontinuity not captured by administrative records, including spending two weeks or longer in one of the following settings: residential or hospital setting, juvenile justice setting, homeless or having run away from home (informal discontinuity). The study also examined demographic and wellbeing characteristics of children and families associated with informal discontinuity.
Conclusion: Families formed through adoption or guardianship are a growing number of families that have or had contact with the child welfare system. Together these studies help us understand the struggles families face and suggestions for how to improve services.