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Listening to Parents: Overcoming Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care

106 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2005  

Julie Wilson

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Jeff Katz

Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Robert Geen

The Urban Institute

Date Written: February 2005

Abstract

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) codified the right of children in foster care to achieve a safe and permanent home. Since its passage, there has been a 79 percent increase in the number of children adopted from foster care. Surprisingly, the vast majority of post-ASFA adoptions were by foster parents or relatives of the children in care. Why so few children are adopted by general applicants is an important question, particularly for the 131,000 waiting for permanent homes. We examined this question using federal data (AFCARS), a state survey, and case record reviews and interviews with parents and agency staff in three sites. We found a steep attrition rate as prospective families go from initial call to adoption, and identified two particularly crucial points in the process. The first is the prospective parents' initial call to an agency. This information call can be an intensely emotional experience for the prospective adoptive parent, but agencies, faced with the challenge of balancing recruitment with screening, do not handle it as well as they might. The second is the placement process. In part this is a result of the inherent conflict between parents looking for the "right child" to complete their family and agencies looking for the "right home" for each child. But we also found great confusion about how the placement decision is made and what role the prospective adoptive parents should play in it. Among our recommendations are an early focus on recruitment rather than screening; documentation of the adoption process and qualifications for adopting; and, a separation of screening from training wherever possible. We also recommend changing the way initial calls are handled and development of a buddy system paring prospective adoptive parents with experienced adoptive parents, and establishment of a process for soliciting, and incorporating feedback from prospective parents. If we want to find homes for waiting children, it is absolutely critical that child welfare agencies develop ways of listening to prospective parents throughout the adoption process and responding to their needs and concerns.

Keywords: Social Policy

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Julie and Katz, Jeff and Geen, Robert, Listening to Parents: Overcoming Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care (February 2005). KSG Working Paper No. RWP05-005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=663944 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.663944

Julie Wilson (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-8302 (Phone)
617-496-9053 (Fax)

Jeff Katz

Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute ( email )

525 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Geen

The Urban Institute ( email )

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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