More support needed for families adopting from foster care

May 14, 2009

A new University of Illinois study of families adopting from foster care revealed significant declines in professional services and social support over the first three years of adoptive family life, even though parents indicated that they need continued assistance.

"Children who have been in foster care can have a host of medical issues and a history of multiple placements so parenting them can be a challenging task for adoptive parents," said Laurie Kramer, a U of I associate dean and professor of applied family studies.

If these children are to thrive, their families need continued access to an array of professionals, including therapists, school staff, adoption specialists, and trained child-care providers who have experience working with children who have social, emotional, and developmental challenges. These experts can teach parents how to help a who's been in a neglectful or abusive home environment, she said.

"Families who adopt from foster care also need informal support networks, such as family, friends, and clergy. Peer support from other foster and adoptive parents who have experienced the challenges of parenting a previously traumatized child is also important," said Doris M. Houston, co-author of the study and an assistant professor in the School of /Center for Adoption Studies at Illinois State University.

The three-year longitudinal study assessed the social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of 34 families who were adopting a child out of foster care over a three-year period.

"We started working with 49 families when they began parenting their child. And we wanted to know how these parents were doing three years down the road. Nine of the adoptions hadn't been finalized, and we thought that was telling," said Houston.

Parents in the 34 families who followed through with the planned adoption and retained custody of their adoptive child were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed current child well-being, the quality of family life, and the family's use of supportive services. Parents who no longer had custody of the child they adopted or had planned to adopt were asked to participate in an interview to shed light on the factors that contributed to the disruption.

"Families were more likely to be able to follow through and maintain the adoption when they had more contact with adoption agency staff during the pre-adoption period," said Kramer.

Part of the reason was that caseworkers were able to relay information about the child's history that parents needed to parent the child effectively, she said.

But the survey also showed that contact with all types of support had significantly decreased over the first three years of adoptive , she said.

That loss of contact with adoption professionals hadn't occurred because the parents believed they no longer needed it. "Even though their needs may be different now, our data show that parents would still like more support from adoption caseworkers and other specialists as they raise the children they've adopted from foster care," she said.

Houston emphasized that continued contact can be beneficial even if the child doesn't have complicated issues. "Adoption professionals can help prepare parents for the developmental stages that adopted children may go through as they come to terms with separation and loss," she said.

"And, if families do need more help, professionals can link them with community resources. They can help families decide if there's a need for adoption-specific counseling services so they can address concerns before they reach a point of crisis," she added.

Why the decline in post-adoption services? "Adoption professionals are skilled at helping adoptive families face the initial challenges they encounter—helping families get the legal assistance they need, doing the case study, and shepherding them through the adoption process, but they may not have the resources to maintain an investment with these families down the road," said Houston.

She noted that infant adoptions have historically been shrouded in secrecy, and adoptive families often try to handle problems independently to avoid being singled out or appearing dysfunctional.

"Until recently, adoptions followed this model that assumed families should have privacy and be 'left alone' after adoptions were finalized. But this study shows that families adopting older children need ongoing support from a large network of support services," she said.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (news : web)

Explore further: Children's sex affects parents' marital status

Related Stories

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Children of divorce less likely to care for elderly parents

September 17, 2007

For better or worse, baby boomers approach retirement with more complex marital histories than previous generations. Temple University researcher Adam Davey, Ph.D. has found the impact of these events — divorces, widowhood, ...

Parents are the unsung heroes

November 26, 2008

It's a parents worst nightmare, a newborn baby going under the knife to repair a heart defect. If the baby survives, that's when the real work begins for parents. University of Alberta nursing professor Gwen Rempel has seen ...

Vulnerable children fare well with relatives

January 21, 2009

Placing vulnerable children with relatives is a viable option, a new study by Cochrane Researchers suggests. In view of several recent high profile child abuse cases, the study may have important policy implications.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.