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2004 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 10, No. 1
December 2004

Assessing Post-Adoption Support in Your Agency

As we have mentioned, North Carolina’s 100 county departments of social services are in different places when it comes to providing post-adoption support. A small number have dedicated post-adoption support workers. Others receive help from private agencies. Still others offer very little in the way of post-adoptive services.

You may find it useful to assess your agency’s performance in this area, regardless of where it falls on this continuum. To make this task a little easier, we have developed a series of questions (see box below) intended to help you understand what you do well and where you might improve.

Potential Difficulties
As you conduct this self-assessment, be on the lookout for these obstacles:

Lack of awareness that there is a need for and a mandate to provide these services. As we hope this issue and North Carolina’s policy make clear, the need is there and county DSS’s must help address it.

Concerns about cost. Social worker time is definitely required when adoptive parents ask for support. But in the words of one adoption expert, “It is not about money, it is about support. It is about listening to families when they are having trouble and helping them access services.”

Some agencies automatically assume that a commitment to post-adoption support means a huge financial investment. Yet many times all we need to do to support families is to make sure they know the door is open if they need help. The resources described later in this issue, most of which are free, should help your agency provide cost-effective services to those adoptive parents who do need them.

Another resource is the Casey Center for Effective Child Welfare Practice, which provides technical assistance to support agencies financing and implementing post-adoption services. Contact Sarah Greenblatt at <sgreenblatt@caseyfamilyservices.org>.

Lack of expertise. Currently few child welfare workers in North Carolina, even those who specialize in adoptions, receive formal training about post-adoption support. Until training becomes available, agencies should encourage adoption workers to learn as much as they can about this subject on their own. The learning resources in the online version of this issue should help them do this.

Lack of community resources. According to the US Census Bureau (2002), North Carolina is 39.8% rural. In practical terms this means that many communities have very few providers, support groups, and other resources. As one county DSS child welfare worker put it, “the most we do is refer a family to community resources that MAY be able to help them.”

Again, the resources described later in this issue may help you enhance what you have to offer families.

Post-Adoption Support: A Self-Assessment

These questions may prove helpful to agencies seeking to assess their ability to provide timely, effective services to families after the final decree of adoption.

  1. What do we tell prospective adoptive families—and those who go on to adopt—about the likelihood they will need services after finalization?
  2. In the years following finalization, do we periodically check in with families to encourage them to seek out the support they need?
  3. When families do ask for help, is our response timely and coordinated?
  4. When we refer adoptive families to other community resources (e.g., mental health providers) are we confident these providers are accessible to the family (i.e., take Medicaid) and that they understand issues related to foster care and adoption?
  5. What do we say to each other in our agency about post-adoption support?
    --Is it clear who should respond when adoptive families ask us for help?
    --Do we encourage this person or persons to attend training or pursue self-guided learning about post-adoption support?
    -- Do we have written policies and procedures about post-adoption support?
  6. What percentage of our financial resources (e.g., monies received through the Special Children’s Adoption Fund) go to post-adoption support?
  7. Are we taking full advantage of the free help from outside vendors available to us through the NC Division of Social Services?
  8. Do we regularly evaluate our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to providing post-adoption support?

Capturing Strengths
We have also developed a short self-assessment individual workers can use to help them understand and multiply the post-adoption support successes they’ve had in the past. We suspect you’ll find this brief questionnaire not only productive, but fun. Click here to go to this post-adoption support assessment for individual workers.

References for this and other articles in this issue