Preparing school age children for special needs adoption: perspectives of successful adoptive parents and caseworkers

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Hanna, Michele Denise

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This study explored child preparation for adoption from the perspective of 55 successful adoptive parents and 26 corresponding caseworkers from 19 different states and 27 different agencies. Children in this study were placed from the foster care system into adoptive homes when they were between the ages of six and fifteen years. The results of this study add to the understanding of how children have been prepared for adoption from the perspective of the adoptive parents who are responsible for nurturing and guiding these children to adulthood. This study also offers exploratory data on the understanding of adoption preparation from the perspective of the workers responsible for preparing children for adoption. Qualitative and quantitative analysis were conducted to explore the variation in child preparation activities and the relationship between the child’s preparation for adoption and long term outcomes for the adoptive family including the use of post adoption services. Findings suggest that preparing children for adoption is a process that extends beyond the placement of the child into the adoptive home. Findings also highlight the pivotal role of adoptive parents in preparing school age children for the life long ramifications of adoption. Although many models of preparation exist, the results of this study also suggest that children are not being prepared for adoption in a systematic or consistent manner across agencies nationwide. Findings indicate that children who are adopted by foster parents or kinship families receive less preparation for adoption than children who are adopted by general applicants. Results also highlight the need for workers to understand and consider the child’s experience and history with the child welfare system as they individualize adoption preparation activities to meet the unique needs of the child.