Oregon Launches Post-Adoption Resource Center
by Claudia Hutchison
Claudia Hutchison, longtime director of the Boys and Girls Aid Society in Portland, Oregon and manager of the Special Needs Adoption Coalition of Oregon, recently embarked on a new venture?Oregon?s Post-Adoption Resource Center (ORPARC). Below she explains how the Center came into being and what services it will provide to Oregon families who adopt children from the foster care system.
As soon as the adoption papers are signed, the newly formed family lives happily ever after, right?
As adoption professionals and adoptive families know, the toughest part of adoption often comes after the child moves into his or her new home. Integrating a new member into the family and effectively dealing with needs and issues that a new child brings can be quite challenging. Adoptive parents need a lot of support, and have traditionally had to rely on other adoptive parents, extended family, and their own strengths to sort out the complex issues of adoption. Now adoptive families in Oregon have a new place to turn: Oregon?s Post-Adoption Resource Center (ORPARC).
How the Program Started
After receiving input from surveys of post-adoptive families and focus groups of families and professionals, Oregon?s State Office for Services to Children and Families (SOSCF) recognized early in the 1990s that families who adopt children from the foster care system have a strong need for support services. Service needs are especially great after adoptions are finalized and the adoption social worker and agency are no longer officially involved. Oregon's Adoption Reform Strategic Plan for July 1998 through June 2000 formally acknowledged adoptive families? needs by including the goal of improving post-adoption services.
To help achieve that goal, SOSCF reviewed recent guidelines for federal title IV-B funding, and decided to dedicate all of the funds earmarked for "adoption promotion and support services" to post-adoption services. The state legislature approved the plan, and a statewide information and referral center began to take shape.
Because Oregon has a long history of successfully partnering with private agencies to recruit, prepare, and supervise adoptive families for children in state custody, SOSCF chose to offer the new project to the private sector through a request for proposal process. In January 1999, SOSCF awarded the post-adoption services contract to Northwest Resource Associates, an organization that also administers the Northwest Adoption Exchange.
What ORPARC Will Do
Located in Portland, the center will provide information, referral, and technical assistance to families across the state who have adopted a child from the state foster care system. Families who have already adopted from the state will receive a welcome packet this summer introducing the center?s services. Then, each month, ORPARC will send welcome packets to additional families who adopt state waiting children. Oregon families who adopt children from other states? foster care systems will also be eligible for assistance through ORPARC.
Thanks to technological advances (such as the Internet and teleconferencing), ORPARC will be able to offer a wide variety of services to a broad audience. Services will include:
A lending library and resource center with books, videos, audio tapes, self-study packets, and articles on a wide range of adoption and parenting issues.
A web site (www.orparc.org), which will contain a current list of resource materials, book reviews, a listing of upcoming trainings with on-line registration, articles pertaining to special needs adoption, and links to other web sites that may be of interest to adoptive parents.
Assistance in locating adoption support groups and in helping families to start groups where none exist.
A quarterly newsletter that lists trainings, new library materials, and other adoption news and information pertinent to Oregon's adoptive parents.
Referrals to community resources that can address mental health needs, developmental disabilities services, respite care, and educational services.
The center will also help families determine whether they can use adoption assistance or other benefits to pay for various services. And, to ensure that adoptive families' needs are being met, an advisory committee composed of adoptive parents and adoption professionals will meet regularly to review and assess ongoing activities.
Who Will Use ORPARC's Services
As suggested above, ORPARC's services are free to Oregon families who have adopted children who were in the state of Oregon's custody, and to Oregon families who adopt children from other state foster care systems. Calls and referrals are confidential.
Families who participate in ORPARC trainings will be encouraged to invite members of their support systems—including school personnel and mental health therapists—to attend the trainings, and adoption professionals are also welcome to attend. The web site, of course, will be open to everyone who wishes to access the information it provides.
After the program is fully established, ORPARC staff hope to expand the reach of training sessions. One goal is to develop a training specifically geared toward mental health and school professionals.
Since the center opened in April, staff members have been busy with planning and start-up tasks. One of our first assignments was to visit state adoption and intake units and explain the new service. We have also attended adoptive parent support group meetings to showcase the program and solicit suggestions. Suggestions from the family group meetings helped us to decide on the first three training topics. They are:
Creating Your Child's "Village" (how to choose and work with therapists, pediatricians, etc.)90-minute teleconference; and
Decision-Making around "Openness" in Your Adoption90-minute teleconference.
Once Oregon adoptive families receive their welcome packet this summer, ORPARC will adhere to a schedule of extended hours that include two evenings a week and one Saturday a month. As additional needs are identified, hours may be increased, and the center may also provide services to non-English-speaking families.
The ORPARC Team
Barbara Tucker Pearson, director of the Northwest Adoption Exchange, is the program director for ORPARC. Claudia Hutchison, former manager of the Special Needs Adoption Coalition of Oregon, manages the center. The staff includes a resource center coordinator, an office manager, and three family support specialists: John Bennett, an educator who has taught in residential treatment programs; Melissa Cadwallader, a child welfare professional with experience in adoption, reunification, and therapeutic foster care; and Marilyn Krueger, a mental health nurse practitioner with experience counseling adolescents, young adults, and families. In addition to her computer expertise, office manager Melody Mello has direct experience in child welfare; she has been a foster parent to more than 26 children in two states.
The ORPARC staff will soon make more information about the program available to other state and private agency staff via presentations at national conferences. Maybe we'll have a session on this topic at NACAC's 2000 conference in Baltimore!
"Happily ever after" takes a lot of work. Oregon's Post Adoption Resource Center should help ease that burden.