Magazine article Policy & Practice

Training Mental Health Professionals to Be Adoption Competent

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Training Mental Health Professionals to Be Adoption Competent

Article excerpt

Across the country, adoptive parents consistently identify adoption competent mental health services as their greatest service need. Adoptive families struggle to find mental health professionals who understand the impact of their children's pre-adoption histories and the impact of adoption on their families. Adoptive families find that too few mental health professionals are familiar with basic adoption issues and most lack an understanding of the issues related to the adoption of older children and children from racial and ethnic backgrounds that differ from those of the parents. Some families report seeking therapy from as many as 10 different therapists before finding one who understands adoption issues, even if they ever find such a therapist.


Our field must respond to the needs identified by adoptive families to ensure that they have access to adoption-competent mental health services. I know that our mental health community can respond to the need if we provide responsive training programs to expand their knowledge base.

With support of the Freddie Mac Foundation, the Casey Center for Effective Child Welfare Practice at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Dave Thomas Foundation, and the WW Kellogg Foundation, the Center for Adoption Support and Education has developed a standardized adoption-competent training program for post master's-degree mental health professionals. Sarah Greenblatt of the Annie E. Casey Foundation notes that this initiative guides states in planning, implementing and funding this urgently needed training and supervised support for mental health practitioners and the adoptive families they serve. When finalized, this standardized program will provide a replicable model for training adoption-competent mental health professionals across the country.

CASE worked closely with a national advisory board and identified 18 areas of knowledge, values and skills that mental health professionals must have to be considered "adoption competent." Using these competencies, CASE developed an adoption competency training program for mental health professionals, which is being pilot-tested at the University of Maryland School of Social Work under the Continuing Professional Education program. Dean Richard Barth of the School of Social Work said that the school is committed to being part of the creation and testing of new programs and practices and the opportunity to collaborate with CASE and its many distinguished partners fits them like a glove. "I can envision a time when this content is not only available through our Continuing Professional Education program and also that at least some elements of this curriculum become part of our advanced MSW coursework. All of this will lead to greater benefits for the growing number of adopting families," Barth said.

The pilot test began in September 2009 with 16 post-master's mental health professionals. …

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