Adoption

Adoption References

This NASW research Web page focuses on adoption, a major area of child welfare guided by both social work research and efforts in social work to develop sound policies and practices.   Adoption is an important service provided for children who cannot be cared for by their birthparents and who need and can benefit from new and permanent family ties.  The role of social workers, usually carried out under the auspices of public or private adoption agencies, is to help support both the birth and adoptive parents and children through the adoption process and provide services that are helpful to fostering a healthy and stable family.

Important federal legislation guides adoption practices, especially related to special needs adoption, transracial adoption, and adoption of children under the supervision of public child welfare agencies. http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/otherpubs/majorfedlegis.cfm State statutes also regulate adoption services and processes. http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/search/index.cfm Since the passage of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997, adoption services at the state level have noticeably changed.  ASFA emphasized the importance of safety and permanency for children and established specific timelines to limit children lingering in foster care, and required that termination of parental rights be initiated for many children in placement for more than fifteen months.

Social workers perform a broad array of services to help children and birth and adoptive parents through the adoption and post-adoption process, including (1) evaluating the suitability of homes and families that wish to adopt children; (2) assessing the developmental, social, cognitive, and cultural needs of children available for adoption in order to match them with an appropriate adoptive home; (3) working with birth families to determine their capacities to continue to parent and to be involved in their children’s lives and/or to potentially deal with termination of parental rights; (4) helping with placement transitions; and (5) providing for post-adoption services to ensure lasting and strong adoptive families.  Adoption can be an option for children from birth to older teens, for children with a range of special medical, developmental, and educational needs, and for sibling groups.  Adoption research also addresses special issues related to adoptions occurring across state or international boundaries, surrogacy and adoption, and openness in adoption.  Open communication is of utmost importance when working in adoption because it reduces false expectations and produces more successful outcomes.

The following Web sites are examples of resources that provide important information about adoption legislation, research, data, and outcomes.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families
The Children’s Bureau provides state and national data on adoption and foster care, child abuse and neglect, and child welfare. It also funds research in collaboration with other organizations.  The statistics and research page of the Children’s Bureau Web site is available at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Research Bibliography Abstract Databasehttp://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/ressea.html
The institute is a non-profit organization devoted to improving adoption policy and practice. They collected abstracts from Social Science databases such as Sociology, Social Work, and Psychology Abstracts, MEDLINE, Online Computer Library Center, and Dissertation Abstracts.  The database contains approximately 1,000 abstracts from qualitative and quantitative research conducted 1986 to1997.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway
Formerly the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information and the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides access to information and resources to help protect children and strengthen families. The section on adoption includes resources on all aspects of domestic and intercountry adoption, including adoption from foster care. The clearinghouse includes information for prospective and adoptive parents; information about searching for birth relatives; and resources for professionals on recruiting adoptive families, preparing children and youth, supporting birth parents, and providing post-adoption services.  http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/index.cfm

Center for Adoption Research
The Research and Policy Analysis division of the Center for Adoption Research disseminates knowledge about foster care and adoption policy and practice to policymakers and health care professionals.  The goal is to share research and policy analysis knowledge in key areas that will have an influence on policies and programs in order to improve the lives of children in adoptive and foster families. This page can be found at: http://www.umassmed.edu/adoption/research/

Child Welfare League of America
This Web link provides information on adoption facts and figures and adoption standards: http://www.cwla.org/programs/adoption/

RESEARCH REFERENCES

A search of Social Work Abstracts identified a broad range of adoption research findings from 1996-2006.

Special Needs Adoption

The impact of religiosity, religious support, and worker support on special needs adoption: child, family and parent outcomes.
Belanger, K. H. (2004). Dissertation, University of Houston.

While 45% of foster children awaiting adoption are African American, members/friends of rural Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church have adopted 70 special needs African American children since 1997. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, this study explored Bennett Chapel adoptions, and examined the impact of religion and worker support on outcomes. Employing a cross-sectional design, 113 adoptive families from Louisiana and East Texas, including Bennett Chapel, completed self-administered surveys during training held between April and September 2004. Forty-seven percent of respondents were African American, 66% rural, and 93% members of religious congregations. Using multiple regression, child behavior predicted parent stress (R2 = .201), parent health (R2 = .101), and impact of adoption on the family (R2 = .168). Controlling for behavior, religiosity reduced parent stress (R2 = .108); worker support positively influenced impact of adoption (R2 = .060); church attendance predicted parental health (R2 = .067). Religious support did not impact outcomes. Faith and worker support were essential for many in deciding to adopt.

Factors contributing to parents’ preparation for special-needs adoption.
Egbert, S. C & LaMont, E. C.  (2004). Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 21(6), 593-609.

A total of 368 parents shared their perceptions of special-needs adoption preparation. Using both quantitative and qualitative data to determine and understand what factors contribute to preparation, this study found that 12 child, family, and agency variables were correlated with perceived preparation, and that parents’ perceived level of preparation was predicted by the child’s ability to attach, by the parents’ relationship with the agency, by the duration of the adoption, and by the parents’ ages at the time of adoption. Implications of these findings are discussed, as they relate to supporting parents, children, and families in special-needs adoptive placements.

Permanency Planning

Effects of age and race on the odds of adoption versus remaining in long-term out
Barth, R. P. (1996).  Child Welfare, 76(2), 285-308.

Permanency planning philosophy and law express a preference for adoption over long-term out-of-home care when children cannot be reunified with their families. Yet little research has considered the likelihood of a child being adopted as compared to remaining in long-term care. This study followed 3,873 children who were under six years of age when they entered out-of-home care to determine whether over the next six years they were reunified with their biological families, adopted, remained in out-of-home care, or experienced another outcome. Age at the time of placement and race/ethnicity were found to have substantial direct effects on outcomes, but there were no significant age by race interactions or gender-based significant direct or interactive effects. Suggestions for improving the likelihood of adoption are presented.

Infants who stay in foster care: Child characteristics and permanency outcomes of legally free children first placed as infants.
Kemp, S. P, & Bodonyi, J. M. (2000). Child and Family Social Work, 5(2), 95-106.

This study examined length of stay and permanency outcomes for 458 legally free children who initially entered out-of-home care as infants. Using a Cox proportional-hazards inventory event history model, the study also explored the effects of race/ethnicity and gender on the likelihood of these children achieving a permanent placement (legalized adoption or guardianship) within a reasonable period of time. African American children and boys were found to be significantly less likely to achieve permanence than Caucasian children or girls. Across all groups of children in the sample, however, long stays in care were the norm. These findings suggest the need for flexible approaches to permanency, for efforts to better differentiate among infants in care, and for attention to children’s long-term developmental needs as well as for strategies that better assure placement stability.

Planning for permanency for youth in congregate care.
Freundlich, M., & Avery, R. J. (2005). Children and Youth Services Review, 27(2), 115-134.

A significant number of children and youth in foster care in the United States are placed in congregate care settings (group homes and residential treatment centers) and a large proportion of this group of youth are age 12 and older. Research has documented the negative outcomes for youth who leave foster care without permanent family or other adult connections, and policy and practice have emphasized permanency for children and youth in foster care. Nonetheless, research has not focused specifically on the extent to which permanent family connections are being successfully achieved for youth in congregate care settings. In a qualitative study conducted by Children’s Rights and partnering legal organizations in New York City, permanency outcomes for youth in congregate care were examined. Interviews were conducted with a range of professionals as well as with young adults who had exited foster care after placements in congregate care settings. The findings indicate that a number of systemic factors undermine the achievement of permanency for youth in care, including a limited focus on work with families. It was found that reunification and adoption were used far less often than “independent living” as the permanency goal for youth in congregate care settings. Young adults reported relatively low levels of involvement in the permanency planning process. The study advances a number of recommendations to improve permanency outcomes for youth in congregate care settings, including a reduced reliance on congregate care and greater reliance on family-based placements, an emphasis on permanency as a critical outcome for youth, and greater accountability on the part of public and private child welfare agencies for achieving permanency for youth in congregate care. Directions for future research are proposed.

Permanency mediation: A path to open adoption for children in out-of-home care.
Maynard, J. (2005, July/August). Child Welfare, 84(4), 507-526.

This research study examined the experiences of birthparents, permanent parents, and mediators in permanency mediation following a state child welfare agency’s recommendation for termination of parental rights. Permanency mediation provides participants with the opportunity to collaborate in an agreement that entails a voluntary surrender of parental rights by the birthparents and the placement of children with permanent parents in open adoption or guardianship. Findings suggested that permanency mediation has the potential to be a successful practice. Participants, however, need additional support during and after mediation to help them understand open adoption and deal with the changes in family structures and boundaries, address their own feelings and concerns, and establish reliable means of communication with each there.

Using concurrent planning to establish permanency for looked after young children.
Monck, E., Reynolds, J., & Wigfall, V. (2004). Child and Family Social Work, 9(4), 321-331.

Many looked after children spend lengthy periods in impermanent care, and their frequent moves probably contribute to subsequent disturbed behavior. Concurrent planning aims to reduce the number of moves and the length of time before placement in a permanent family. In this study, 24 young children in three concurrent planning (CP) projects and 44 from two “traditional” adoption teams were followed for 12-15 months. Records were obtained of the number of moves between households and the dates of key events before the child’s permanent family placement was confirmed by the courts. The CP children moved into permanent families significantly faster and with significantly fewer previous moves than the two comparison groups. Unexpectedly, the CP children were significantly younger than the children following traditional adoption programs, making direct comparison impossible. Among those birth parents who were interviewed, the majority saw advantages in the CP approach. Concurrent planning carers reported high levels of personal anxiety but positive views of the advantages for the children. The study concludes that CP can be used to achieve earlier permanence and fewer moves between careers for young children from selected birth families. The success of a CP team is dependent on the support of other professionals involved in determining permanent placements, based on a shared acknowledgment of the damaging effects of delay for the looked after child.

After parental rights are terminated: Factors associated with exiting foster care.
Smith, B. D. (2003). Children and Youth Services Review, 25(12), 965-985.

As child welfare agencies respond to Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) timelines, more foster children are becoming eligible for adoption following termination of parental rights (TPR). Using multi-state data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), this study focuses on a cohort of foster children (n = 1,995) whose parents’ rights were terminated in the same month. The majority of these children remained in foster care one year after becoming eligible for adoption. The study uses Cox regression to assess factors associated with the rate of foster care discharge within the first year of TPR. Characteristics associated with exiting care at a slower rate include: being older, being African American, being placed in kinship care, and having multiple placement settings. In addition, the rate of exiting foster care after TPR varies by state, and some state differences remain even after accounting for client demographics and other caseload differences between states. The findings raise questions about current practices to promote legal permanency, and suggest that new practices may be needed to better maintain family ties and psychological bonds.

Adolescent adjustment in a nationally collected sample: Identifying group differences by adoption status, adoption subtype, developmental stage and gender.
Burrow, A. L., Tubman, J. G., & Finley, G. E. (2004).  Journal of Adolescence, 27(3), 267-282.

This study investigated group differences in adolescent adjustment by adoption status and adoption subtype in a national sample, in contrast to group differences based on developmental stage or gender. Secondary analyses of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were performed to describe group differences in a broad range of adjustment measures (a) between adoptees and nonadoptees, (b) between different-race adoptees and same-race adoptees and, (c) across adolescent developmental stage and gender groups. Based upon a developmental deviance hypothesis, this study hypothesized that early adolescent different-race adoptees would fair better across measures of academic performance, familial relationships, psychological adjustment, and physical health than their middle and late adolescent counterparts. Group comparisons revealed little evidence of increased maladjustment among adopted adolescents compared to non-adopted study participants. In addition, group comparisons revealed few differences across indices of adolescent adjustment by adoption subtype (i.e., by the degree of racial congruence of adopted child and adoptive parent). However, significant group differences in adolescent adjustment were found based on participants’ developmental stage and gender. The implications of the findings are discussed.

Interracial Adoption

Negative outcomes of interethnic adoption of Mexican American children.
Bausch, R. S., & Serpe, R. T. (1997).  Social Work, 42(2), 136-43.

This study identifies concerns about four possible negative outcomes of interethnic adoption involving Mexican American children and non-Mexican American parents. A sample of 861 Mexican Americans age 18 or older were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that four outcomes result from interethnic adoption: (1) the child may have an ethnic identity conflict, (2) the child may forget his or her Latino background, (3) the child’s participation in Latino cultural events may be limited, and (4) the child may not acquire the skills to cope with racism. Respondents’ agreement with the likelihood of these outcomes was associated with a belief in the importance of structural and cultural barriers preventing Latinos from adopting; with higher levels of participation in Mexican American cultural events; and with income, education, and acculturation. However, agreement that the outcomes were likely did not necessarily reflect approval or disapproval of interethnic adoption. Suggestions are made for future research on Mexican American children adopted by non-Mexican American parents.

Promoting same-race adoption for children of color.
Hollingsworth, L. D. (1998). Social Work, 43(2), 104-116.

Opponents of policies that protect same-race adoption assert that children of color are languishing in out-of-home care because they are being restricted from entering transracial adoption arrangements. This study argues that transracial adoption is not necessary to ensure that children of color are adopted in a timely manner and sets forth alternative arguments around six issues: (1) policies favoring adoption by foster parents, (2) the availability of same-race families to adopt children of color, (3) the abundance of children in out-of-home care unavailable for adoption or with special needs, (4) disparities in child welfare services related to ethnicity, (5) misleading data on the numbers of children of color who are in foster care, and (6) poverty as an underlying cause of out-of-home placements. This study presents the history of the transracial adoption controversy and discusses its current status; counters assertion typically used to oppose same-race adoption policies for children of color; summarizes the positions of several social work organizations regarding adoption and race; and makes recommendations for education, policy, research, and practice.

Effect of transracial/transethnic adoption on children’s racial and ethnic identity and self-esteem: A meta-analytic review.
Hollingsworth, L. D. (1997). Marriage and Family Review, 25(1/2), 99-130.

This paper reports the results of a meta-analytic review of comparative studies of racial identity and self-esteem in transracially/transethnically-adopted, inracially-adopted/same ethnic group, and biologic African American and Mexican American children. Six studies, including one longitudinal study with four phases, met the established criteria. Study level effect sizes were calculated. Twenty-nine dependent measure effect sizes were also calculated. There was an overall effect, in the negative direction, of transracial adoption on a combined variable of racial/ethnic identity and self-esteem. The effect size increased when racial identity was considered separately. Effect size associated with self-esteem was not statistically significant, although a positive direction was noted. Tests failed to achieve homogeneity among included studies. Age of study participant was a moderating variable. Several other potential moderators were also identified. Results are discussed in terms of implications for future research.

Sociodemographic influences in the prediction of attitudes toward transracial adoption.
Hollingsworth, L. D. (2000).  Families in Society, 81(1), 92-100.

An exploratory study of attitudes toward transracial adoption was conducted using data from a 1991 national telephone opinion survey of 916 respondents. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed believed that race should not be a factor in who should be allowed to adopt a child. However, in a logistic regression analysis, respondents in the highest age category (i.e., those older than 64 years) were 63% less likely to approve of transracial adoption, compared with 18- 29-year-olds. There was no interaction of race and sex. African American women were 84% less likely than African American men to approve of transracial adoption. Compared with African American men, Caucasian men were 72% less likely to approve. The importance of considering subpopulation differences in applying such findings to adoption policy, research, and practice is discussed.

Perspectives of African American adoptive parents on same race adoption.
Caulton, G. W. (2005). Dissertation, Boston College.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain insight into the adoption experiences of African American adoptive parents. Nine in-depth, audio taped interviews were conducted during 2000-2001 with 13 participants. They were middle-class, age 40 or above, religiously affiliated, and expressed the importance of faith in their daily lives. Although most participants preferred young, healthy female children (which is no different than non-African American adoptive parents), they were flexible in discarding preferences when presented with an actual child. Most were first-time parents who expressed uncertainty about their parenting ability, hence their comfortableness in initially adopting younger children. After having gained self-confidence, some of the participants adopted boys and members of sibling groups.

Training for transracial adoptive parents by public and private adoption agencies.
Vonk, M. E,, & Angaran, R. (2003).  Adoption Quarterly, 6(3), 53-62.

Social work literature strongly suggests that parents who adopt across race need specialized training to develop cultural competence in order to help their children develop positive racial identity and survival skills for life in a multicultural society. Nonetheless, there is little documentation of agency training for transracial adoptive parents. The purpose of this study was to describe aspects of training provided to transracial adoptive parents by public and private adoption agencies in the United States. Using a survey with a random sample of public and private agencies, results (n = 195) indicated that about half of the agencies that facilitate transracial adoption provide relevant training. Implications for social work practice and research are discussed

Willingness to adopt black foster children: Implications for child welfare policy and recruitment of adoptive families.
Brooks, D,, & James, S. (2003).  Children and Youth Services Review, 25(5/6), 463-489.

Little is known about racial disparities in adoption dynamics and pathways for foster children. Only a handful of studies have examined variables that could influence prospective adoptive parents’ willingness to adopt children. But these studies generally have not focused on parents’ willingness to adopt black foster children–a disproportionate number of whom are available for adoption. This study responds to gaps in adoption and foster care knowledge and was guided by two broad questions: What are the differences between parents willing to adopt black foster children and those who are not? What variables affect parents’ willingness to adopt black foster children? Subjects in the study were 541 white adoptive parents participating in a longitudinal study of adoptive families. Data were collected using mailed questionnaires completed over the three waves of the study. Findings showed that parents who are willing to adopt black foster children differ notably from those who are not, particularly with regard to attitudinal factors impacting their decision to adopt and their experiences with adoption workers and agencies. Results of the study have important implications for child welfare policy and recruitment of adoptive families. These implications, along with those for future research, are considered. (This is one of seven articles in this special issue on racial disproportionality in child welfare.)

Lesbian/Gay Couples

Lesbian couples choosing parenthood: A qualitative inquiry of the process to become parents.
NewHeart, L. F. (2005). Dissertation, University of Kansas.

This qualitative study explored barriers, supports, and strategies used in the process of becoming parents for lesbian couples, including the effects of homophobia and heterosexism on agency policy and access to services. The 13 couples interviewed for the study used insemination, adoption or a combination of both to become parents in the context of their current relationships. Analysis of the stories of these lesbian couples from a social constructionist/feminist framework provided valuable insight into the process of becoming parents in a large metropolitan area in the Midwest. Important themes emerged from the data in five areas: (a) lesbian parenthood; (b) disclosure/”outness” through the process; (c) the power of policy; (d) importance of context; and (e) the value of role models and supportive allies. The findings of this study highlight the importance of social work advocacy in facilitating lesbian couples accessing the services necessary to become parents.

Adoption agency perspectives on lesbian and gay prospective parents: A national study.
Brodzinsky, D. M., Patterson, C. J,, & Vaziri, M. (2002).  Adoption Quarterly, 5(3), 5-23.

A nationwide survey of adoption agencies was conducted to examine their policies, practices, and attitudes with regard to lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents. A total of 214 questionnaires were received, representing a return rate of 26 percent. Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated that their agency accepted applications from lesbian and gay individuals, and nearly 38 percent indicated that their agency had made at least one adoption placement with a lesbian or gay adult during the two-year period under study. Attitudes and practices regarding adoption by lesbian and gay individuals varied as a function of the religious affiliation (if any) of the agency, the type of children the agency predominantly placed for adoption, and the gender of the respondent. Overall, the results revealed that while policies, practices, and attitudes vary across agencies, many adoption professionals are willing to work with lesbian and gay prospective parents, and, in fact, a substantial number have experience in doing so.

Open Adoptions

Openness and contact in foster care adoptions: An eight-year follow-up.
Frasch, K. M., Brooks, D., & Barth, R. P. (2000).  Family Relations, 49(4), 435-446.

This study examines openness and contact in 231 foster care adoptions from the California Long-Range Adoption Study (CLAS), an eight-year prospective longitudinal study. Data were collected using three waves of mailed questionnaires completed by the adoptive parent. Findings indicate that while the practice of openness continues to evolve for most families, there is remarkable stability in levels of contact and communication with the child’s biological family, especially in the last four years of the study. (This is one of 13 articles in a special issue on adoption.)

Variants of open adoptions: The early years.
Gross, H. E. (1997). Marriage and Family Review, 25(1/2), 19-42.

This analysis begins with the argument that conceptual ambiguity and related measurement inconsistencies have surfaced in the growing number of studies about open adoption because the term subsumes a range of possibilities of contact between birth and adoptive families, as well as other sources of variation which affect the developing post-placement relationship between members of these two families. It then turns to the first report from a longitudinal study of adoptive (n = 41) and associated birth parents (n = 26) based on initial face-to-face (within six months of the placement); subsequent follow-up (telephone) interviews (18 months to two years post-placement) with these families and observations from over three years of fieldwork in the private agency which arranged these adoptions. Three post-placement patterns are identified and distinguished: Rejecters, Acceptors, and Embracers. The paper concludes with a discussion about enabling conditions for successful post-placement openness.

Community assessments of adoption issues. Open adoption, birth reunions, and the disclosure of confidential information.
Miall, C. E. (1998)   Journal of Family Issues,  19(5), 556-577.

Theorists have identified the community as an important stakeholder in adoption and recommended research to inform policy development on adoption issues. With a random sample of 150 Canadian respondents, this study combines fixed alternative and open-ended questions and considers community evaluations of open adoption, birth reunions, and disclosure of confidential information. Comparisons are made to similar research on the adoption triangle. Community involvement in public policy formation is advocated to balance specialized agendas.

Expectations and experiences of participants in ongoing adoption reunion relationships: A qualitative study.
Affleck, M. K., & Steed, L. G. (2001). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(1), 38-48.

Expectations of the adoption reunion process, responses to disappointments, and factors that influence reunion outcomes are investigated in a qualitative study of 10 adult adoptees and 10 birthmothers. Themes derived from interviews with participants are analyzed and explored, and implications for clinical practice and research are presented.

Predictors of psychological functioning and adoption experience in adults searching for their birthparents.
Muller, U., Gibbs, P., & Ariely, S. G. (2002). Adoption Quarterly, 5(3), 25-53.

This study examined potential predictors of psychological functioning and adoption experience in adults who had either already met or were in the process of meeting their birthparents. A sample (n = 345) of adults was surveyed with questions targeting a variety of psychological, structural, and sociodemographic variables. The results showed that adoption experience and psychological functioning were closely interrelated. Furthermore, different variables predicted different aspects of psychological functioning and adoption experience and provided clues toward understanding differential functioning in persons who were adopted. Psychological similarity to adoptive parents contributed significantly to the prediction of the quality of attachment relationships. It is suggested that future research may benefit from targeting variables that influence variability in adoption adjustment

The impact of openness on adoption agency practices: A longitudinal perspective.
Henney, S. M., McRoy, R. G., Ayers-Lopez, S., & Grotevant, H. D. (2003). Adoption Quarterly, 6(3), 31-51.

This article reports the results of a longitudinal study of the changing openness-related practices of private U.S. adoption agencies. Staff from private adoption agencies were interviewed at three points in time, 1987-89, 1993, and 1999, about their practices and attitudes regarding openness in adoption and any changes that may have taken place since the previous interview. From 1993 to 1999 agencies continued a trend toward offering and encouraging more open adoptions. During this period fully disclosed arrangements became more common and had the greatest growth since 1987, while confidential adoptions continued to decrease in frequency. Mediated adoptions remain the pre-dominant arrangements. Changes in the adoption options offered by the agencies at all three time periods were driven primarily by the demands of the birthmother for greater openness. However, by final data collection in 1999, most agencies in this sample changed from viewing the birthmother as their primary client to viewing the adopted child as their primary client. Implications for agency practices are discussed.

Open adoption of infants: Adoptive parents’ feelings seven years later.
Siegel, D. H. (2003).  Social Work, 48(3), 409-419.

Adoptions today increasingly include contact between adoptive and birth families. What do these “open adoptions” look like? How do the participants feel about them? This article, based on part of a longitudinal study that first examined adoptive parents’ perceptions of their infants’ open adoptions seven years ago, explores the parents’ reactions now that their children are school age. This qualitative descriptive research revealed changes in the openness in the adoptions over time and identified four dimensions along which open adoptions vary. Findings showed parents’ enthusiasm for the openness in their adoptions, regardless of the type and extent of openness. Implications for social work practice, education, and policy are explored.

The long-term outcome of reunions between adult adopted people and their birth mothers.
Howe, D., & Feast, J. (2001). The British Journal of Social Work, 31(3), 351-368.

Increasing numbers of adult adopted people are searching for and having reunions with their birth relatives. Although many studies now exist that have looked at the search and reunion process, few have examined reunion outcomes over the long term. This study investigated the experiences of 48 adult adopted people who first had contact with their birth mothers at least eight years prior to the survey. Outcomes were examined in terms of the adopted person’s evaluation of their own adoption experience, and the frequency of contact, if any, currently occurring between the adopted person and their adoptive and birth mothers. Although over half of the adopted people were still in contact with their birth mothers eight years or more post reunion, the number still in touch with their adoptive mothers was higher. Furthermore, of those still in contact with both their adoptive and birth mothers, the frequency of contact was more likely to be higher with the adoptive mother than with the birth mother. The results are discussed in terms of the search for identity, filial relationships, genetic relatedness, and affectional bonds formed during childhood.

Post Adoption Issues

An analysis of child behavior problems in adoptions in difficulty.
Smith, S. L., Howard, J. A., & Monroe, A. D. (1998). Journal of Social Service Research, 24(1/2), 61-84.

This study examines the behavior problems of children receiving services through an adoption preservation program for legally adopted children at risk of placement or dissolution. Two measures of behavior problems are used: a behavior problem rating scale, available on 368 children, and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBC), available on 201 children. Variables associated with severity of behavior problems include attachment problems, age at placement, experiencing multiple types of abuse and neglect, a history of sexual abuse, and experiencing a recent loss in the family. Children’s scores on the CBC reflect the severity of behavioral and emotional problems among these children who have lived in their adoptive home for a mean of 8.9 years. Ninety-one percent score in the clinical range on at least one of the three summary scores of the CBC. These findings support the need for services for children and families beyond the finalization of adoption.

Comparing adolescents in diverging family structures: Investigating whether adoptees are more prone to problems than their nonadopted peers.
Feigelman, W. (2001).  Adoption Quarterly, 5(2), 5-37.

This paper investigates whether adoptees are more prone to problems than their nonadopted peers. To illuminate this question, another known higher problem risk-group was included: children living with one biological parent. Based on data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, adoptees living in two-parent families (N=369) were contrasted with children living in two-parent biologic families (N=9,676) and with children living with one biological parent in step- or single-parent families (N=7,457). As expected, adolescents living in step- and single-parent families showed far more adjustment difficulties than the other two subgroups. Adoptees showed behavior patterns much like those raised in two-parent biological families, except for three differences: they were more likely to run away from home, to get counseling help, and to show less desire to attend college. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Predictors of psychological functioning and adoption experience in adults searching for their birthparents.
Muller, U., Gibbs, P., & Ariely, S. G. (2002). Adoption Quarterly, 5(3), 25-53.

This study examined potential predictors of psychological functioning and adoption experience in adults who had either already met or were in the process of meeting their birthparents. A sample (n = 345) of adults was surveyed with questions targeting a variety of psychological, structural, and sociodemographic variables. The results showed that adoption experience and psychological functioning were closely interrelated. Furthermore, different variables predicted different aspects of psychological functioning and adoption experience and provided clues toward understanding differential functioning in persons who were adopted. Psychological similarity to adoptive parents contributed significantly to the prediction of the quality of attachment relationships. It is suggested that future research may benefit from targeting variables that influence variability in adoption adjustment.

Practice

Adoption knowledge among professional social workers.
Roseman, F. M. (1999). Dissertation: Barry University.

This study identified social worker knowledge of adoption issues, how the degree of knowledge affects practice, and the sources of adoption knowledge. Clinicians (N = 902) from mental health facilities and private practice were randomly selected from the NASW Clinical Registry during Spring 1999. Clinicians scoring low on the knowledge scale were less likely to inquire about client adoption experiences in their practice. Personal and professional experience were significant influences in whether clinicians inquired about adoption in their practice. Professional journals and direct practice with triad members had no impact on a clinician’s level of adoption knowledge. Further research is needed in refining the adoption knowledge scale, in identifying the barriers of not making inquiries about adoptions, in the benefits of assessing adoption experiences, and in the needed training for improving levels of adoption knowledge among practitioners.

Organizational support for evidence-based practice within child and family social work: A collaborative study.
Barratt, M. (2003).  Child and Family Social Work, 8(2), 143-150.

Research in Practice works in collaboration with over 50 English local authorities and voluntary childcare organizations to explore new and dynamic ways to increase the use of quality evidence to improve services to children and families. One Research in Practice initiative was a two-year collaborative project involving the social services departments of six local authorities. This paper reports on how the views of more than 100 professional staff involved with the provision of services to children and families have been gathered to offer insight into how evidence-based practice can be supported or frustrated in social care organizations. The findings suggest considerable uncertainty about the nature of evidence in social care and its validity in relation to decision making, policy, and planning. Mechanisms essential for the dissemination, implementation, and adoption of research messages are underdeveloped and tensions exist around the explicit use of research evidence within reports and reviews. Many practitioners and teams may be excluded from making decisions based on the best available research evidence through lack of access to Internet resources and adequate information dissemination mechanisms. The paper concludes that there remain considerable areas for further debate if evidence-based practice is to become a reality in work with children and families.

The changing face of public adoption practice.
Simmons, B., Allphin, S., & Barth, R. P. (2000). Adoption Quarterly, 3(4), 43-61.

A study analyzing the workload of California’s public adoption workers revealed how much adoption practice in the public sector has changed in recent years. Using focused discussion groups, this study found that compared to practice of an earlier time, (1) children available for placement come from more problematic families and are more difficult to place; (2) some decisions traditionally within the domain of adoptions are now being made by other social workers; and (3) increased oversight by the judicial system has had several unanticipated consequences, including adoption work taking on a “paralegal” quality and judges making traditional casework decisions.

Social workers’ attitudes toward participants’ rights in adoption and new reproductive technologies.
Holbrook, S. M. (1996).  Health and Social Work, 21(4), 257-66.

New reproductive technologies and issues of adoptees’ rights have generated much debate and controversy. This study discusses a study in which 300 social workers expressed their opinions about these topics with special emphasis on their views toward the rights of the participants. The results show that the social workers did not favor withholding information from adoptees, favored adoptive parents over biological parents, and did not favor government regulation.

January 21st, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Research