Academic journal article Child Welfare

Strengthening Adoption Practice, Listening to Adoptive Families

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Strengthening Adoption Practice, Listening to Adoptive Families

Article excerpt

In-depth interviews with 500 adoptive families who received postadoption services through Virginia's Adoptive Family Preservation (AFP) program paint a richly detailed picture of the challenges adoptive families face and what they need to sustain adoption for many years after finalization. Findings document the need for support in a variety of forms, including respite, counseling, and information. Numerous implications for strengthening adoption practice through effective training and technical assistance are discussed.

The Virginia Adoptive Family Preservation Program (AFP) is a public-private partnership established in 2000 that integrates the adoption services of five private agencies into a statewide postadoption services delivery network. The program design uses a multisite, multilevel system of services to offer families an array of options to support, strengthen, and preserve adoptive families. Each of the nine program sites operates a somewhat different blend of services tailored to service demands and resources in the diverse rural and urban communities served. AFP serves any adoptive family in Virginia, regardless of origin of adoption. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), using Title IV-B funds, subsidizes the program at $1 million a year. The services network is managed by United Methodist Family Services of Virginia (UMFS), a private, nonprofit organization providing a wide range of services across the state. Begun as an orphanage in 1900, UMFS has developed into a statewide organization with seven sites providing adoption, treatment foster care, residential care, and support services to more than 3,000 children and families each year.

The number of children and their families potentially needing postadoption services led to the development of AFP. Since 2000, 3,250 children have been adopted from foster care in Virginia; adoption subsidy was provided for an average 7,300 children per month in fiscal year 2005. The number of children who have had parental rights terminated, have the goal of adoption, and are waiting for adoptive placement has increased steadily from 607 in 2000 to 902 in 2005. (Virginia Department of Social Services, 2006).

The AFP program model was strongly influenced by the work of the National Consortium for Post Legal Adoption Services, a group that developed a model for preserving and supporting adoptive families. Their work outlined principles and characteristics of a postadoption services system and included the concept map that became the blueprint for Virginia's AFP (Arneaud et al, 1996).

The National Consortium model is guided by four principles:

1. Adoption is different. The dynamics of a family created by adoption are different from the dynamics of a family created by birth.

2. Adoption is lifelong and its impact creates unique opportunities and challenges for families and communities.

3. Adoption is mutually beneficial to parent, child, and society.

4. Society is responsible for supporting and aiding the integration and preservation of adoptive families.

The postadoption services model is carried out in Virginia by a network of private agencies employing adoption professionals and adoptive parents hired and trained to provide services as Adoptive Parent Liaisons (APLs). Services delivered include advocacy, information and referral, service coordination, counseling, crisis intervention, parent support groups, children's support/activity groups, and training. Clinical intervention and consultation are provided for a limited number of families and family retreats are offered when funding permits. Families also may access "client funds" that, when available, provide up to $500 for specific, well-documented needs.

Each year, AFP provides services to more than 300 families for whom formal case records are established and to numerous other families provided information and referral services, support groups, parent training and other educational activities sponsored by the AFP. …

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