Adoptive Parent Preparation Project Phase I (page 3)
Changes in the institution of adoption over the past few decades have resulted in many questions about the best way to prepare and support adoptive parents for the task of raising their children. Historically, many parents who adopted children were given little, if any, information about their children’s origins or about adoption in general. Yet, without adequate information, the chances for developing appropriate expectations about adoption, or for understanding the best ways of managing the challenges that can be associated with adoptive family life, are lessened. This is especially true for adoptions from the child welfare system and from other countries, where there is significant risk of medical and/or psychological issues.
It is widely accepted among adoption professionals today that parental preparation, education and support is crucial for the stability of an adoption and for the long-term emotional well-being of all family members. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of variability in the types and extent of preparation and education offered by agencies, attorneys, and others who facilitate adoption placements. Some of these organizations and individuals offer extensive services, both during the pre-adoption and post-adoption periods; however, others offer little to adoptive parents in these areas.
This paper, which represents the first phase of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s Adoptive Parent Preparation Project, outlines the basic principles, key issues, methods, and content areas forming best-practice standards regarding the preparation and education of adoptive parents. This phase focuses on preparing adoptive parents to better understand and manage the mental health, developmental, and parenting issues about which all adoptive parents should be educated, as well as those issues more relevant to specific types of adoptions. The information in this paper should be viewed as a roadmap for the development of specific curricula for professionals to use in preparing and educating adoptive parents in a wide range of content areas.
Obstacles to Adoptive Parent Preparation & Education
An Adoption Institute analysis identified systemic, organizational, and interpersonal obstacles to effective preparation and education of adoptive parents, including:
- Inadequate training of adoption professionals -- in areas related to adoption, foster care, mental health, child development, and family dynamics -- in their formal schooling, on the job, and through continuing education programs.
- Insufficient financial and staffing resources to develop and implement ongoing adoptive parent preparation and educational programs.
- Inadequate guidelines regarding the necessary scope and content for adoption preparation and education programs.
• High staff turnover, particularly in the public child welfare system.
- Biases among some professionals who view adoption unrealistically, and consequently, either ignore, downplay, or dismiss the differences and challenges that can be associated with adoptive family life, or gloss over issues in an attempt to expedite a child’s placement.
- Under-representation of birthparents and adopted individuals in professional positions associated with child placement and parent preparation, which can result in a one-sided presentation of adoptive family life and adoption kinship dynamics.
- Viewing adoption as a business focused primarily on making placements, with too little attention to best practices that support those placements, or to alternative permanency plans.
- Inadequate information about a child’s birth family and pre-placement history.
- Lack of availability of adequate post-adoption services in most communities.
- Inadequate training of mental health professionals in areas related to adoption and foster care.
- Lack of receptivity to the information provided or failure to use services on the part of prospective adoptive parents because of unique personal vulnerabilities, insecurities, unrealistic expectations, and/or lack of knowledge about existing resources or ways to access those resources.
Based on a review of the research and practice literature, consultations with numerous adoption professionals and adoptive parents, and an evaluation of trends and developments in the area of adoption training and education (including requirements under the U.S.-ratified Hague Convention on Intercounty Adoption and its implementing legislation), the Adoption Institute offers the following general recommendations as a foundation for best-practice guidelines for the preparation, education, and support of adoptive parents regarding the understanding and management of their children’s mental health and developmental needs.
- The competency of all professionals in the field should be increased by incorporating more information about adoption and foster care into their graduate training programs and by developing more intensive and extensive continuing education opportunities for them in a wide range of areas relevant to child placement and family support, including but not limited to:
- Ongoing changes in contemporary adoption practice
- Laws associated with adoption policy and practice
- Awareness of personal values, attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes associated with adoption-related practice
- Managing client defensiveness, denial, and resistance
- How race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexual orientation influence adoption practice and adoptive family life
- Role of racial and adoptive identity in adoption
- Biological, experiential, social, and cultural factors affecting child development and adoptive family life
- Mental health issues in adoption
- Developmental issues in adoption
- Family life cycle and parenting issues in adoption
- Role of loss and grief in adoption
- Intervention strategies for supporting adoptive families
Reprinted with the permission of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. © 2007 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. All rights reserved.
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