The following are key talking points that can help in your post-permanency support program advocacy efforts. If the point is based on research, we have included the citation below. If the talking point is in quotation marks, it is a direct quote from the cited source. Feel free to use these talking points or your own.

We have found the most effective messages:

  • Explain the special circumstances of children adopted from care, including the impact of trauma
  • Underline the importance of adoption
  • Demonstrate what specific difference supports make in a child’s life and in their family’s life
  • Show that post-permanency supports and services save money compared to keeping children in foster care or having them re-enter out-of-home care when challenges arise

Families face special challenges raising adopted children with special needs

  • Currently, 123,000 foster children in the United States [about 30,000 in Canada] are waiting for an adoptive family. Post-permanency support services are a critically important tool to encourage the adoption of these children and youth who have special needs and are effective at keeping them safe and stable in their new families.
  • Many foster children waiting for adoption—and the children already adopted from foster care—have special physical, mental health, and developmental needs. Studies show that these children are at heightened risk of moderate to severe health problems, learning disabilities, developmental delays, physical impairments, and mental health difficulties.[1]
  • “Most children enter foster care because of abuse or neglect. A significant number of these children have physical health, mental health and developmental problems (Berry & Barth 1990; Lakin 1992; Smith & Howard 1994) resulting from past trauma, drug and alcohol exposure, and multiple and unexplained separations and loses. Further, research has repeatedly documented that children in foster care disproportionately affected by a range of developmental challenges, including chronic health programs; developmental delays; educational difficulties that warrant special education intervention; mild to moderate mental health problems; and in some cases, severe psychological and behavioral difficulties (Avery & Mont 1994; Simms, Dubowitz, & Szilagyi 2000). [2]
  • Surveyed adoptive families reported that:
    • 58 percent of their children needed specialized health care,
    • 68 percent had an educational delay,
    • 69 percent exhibited misconduct, and
    • 83 percent exhibited some other kind of serious behavioral problem.[3]
  • “Studies on post-adoptive functioning of children adopted from the child welfare system have found a high rate of emotional and behavioral problems (Nelson, 1985; Rosenthal and Groze, 1991, 1992, 1994; Fine, 2000; Howard and Smith, in press). In studies using standardized behavioral measures, approximately 40 percent of such children score in the clinical range many years after their adoptions (Rosenthal and Groze, 1991, 1994; Howard and Smith, in press).”[4]
  • Children adopted from foster care face many more challenges than healthy birth children. And parenting children who have endured abuse, neglect, or other traumas—especially those who suffer from mental health problems or never learned to attach to a family—can be very difficult. It is only logical that governments would offer or support programs of equitable, case-specific assistance and support to all families who care for children brought into government custody, yet adoptive families often receive significantly less financial aid and fewer services than foster parents.

Adoption has important benefits for children and youth

  • Studies show that children who are adopted from foster care have far better educational and social outcomes than those who remain in foster care.[5]
  • Research has demonstrated that youth who are adopted, when compared to youth in foster care, are:
    • more likely to complete high school or the equivalent,
    • more likely to attend and complete college,
    • less likely to become teen parents,
    • less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol,
    • less likely to have mental health problems,
    • less likely to be arrested or incarcerated,
    • more likely to be employed, and
    • more likely to have adequate incomes (with one study showing that individuals adopted from foster care have incomes that are 75 percent higher than young adults who age out of foster care).[6]
  • The outcomes for youth who age out of foster care without a family are extremely troubling. These youth are at elevated risks of homelessness, poor educational outcomes, poor health, unemployment, and incarceration.[7]
  • Adoptive families provide love and emotional security for their children, the stability of a committed family who will be there for them throughout childhood and into adulthood, a place to call home, and financial support.[8] Like other parents who provide, on average, $38,000 in assistance to their children between ages 18 and 34,[9] adoptive parents continue to provide support for their children as they transition into adulthood—support that is not likely to be available for youth who do not leave foster care for permanent families.

Post-permanency support programs matter to families and children

  • Post-permanency services are a vital support to families raising children with often-serious behavioral, emotional, or physical disabilities. With support programs, families are able to remain committed and effective parents as they raise their children who have special needs.
  • “There is evidence of a strong relationship between providing support to adoptive families as a matter of course or in the form of preventive services and positive outcomes in terms of the health, well-being, and stability of the family (Groze 1996a; Smith & Howard 1994)”[10]
  • A number of post-adoption service programs evaluated showed that services resulted in:
    • Improved parenting skills
    • Improved child functioning
    • Increase in adoptions
    • Prevention of adoption disruptions[11]
  • A survey of parents receiving post-permanency supports services[12] revealed that 80% of respondents reported their families were better off having received services. Of these respondents, 30% had child at risk of out-of-home placement. As a result of receiving services, 73% of these children were able to remain at home (33 families).
  • “…research has shown that adoptive families’ needs are multidimensional and may arise at each developmental stage for the family and the adopted person. From a program development perspective, the research makes clear the need for flexible programming that permits families to return for services when needed and does not limit the extent to which they may receive services.”[13]
  • In a recent survey, 81 percent of pre-adoptive and adoptive parents said that adoption assistance was important to their decision to adopt, and 58 percent said they could not adopt a foster child without this support that helps them meet the child’s special needs. The same study cited inadequate subsidy support as one of the two most critical barriers to adopting from foster care.[14]
  • “We have found that the recruitment of prospective adoptive parents and the provision of post-adoption support and services are integrally related…. Assurance of the availability of services and support following adoption has been found to play a critical role in many adoptive parents’ decisions to go forward with the adoption of children in foster care — whether children are adopted by their current foster families or new families recruited for them (Freundlich 1997).”[15]
  • “…adoptive families have a need for an array of education, support and therapeutic community services. And they need to be able to access this array episodically. This mix of services must be provided by service providers and therapists with an adoption-competent knowledgebase and core values, who can see child and family strength amidst complex circumstances and concerning diagnoses.”[16]
  • “For moral, social, and economic reasons, it is in the public interest to assure that families remain intact and strong. The pendulum has swung and society again recognizes the importance of strong family systems in combating society’s ills. Adoption support and preservation services help build strong foundations for families created by adoption. By developing and implementing these services, families involved in adoption, service providers and policy makers are assuring adopted children of every opportunity to become useful, productive citizens.”[17]
  • In many surveys, adoptive parents have typically noted the following as the most important services:
    • Support services including support groups and informal contact with other similar families
    • Parenting education
    • Respite care and child care
    • Counseling
    • Services for children, including groups for older children
    • Adoption assistance[18]

Sustained adoptions save money and improve outcomes for children/youth in foster care

  • One study found that each dollar spent on an adoption from foster care saves about three dollars in public and private costs. This analysis showed that each adoption saved from $90,000 to $235,000 in public costs, and even more in private costs.[19]
  • Researchers have calculated that each adoption nets between $88,000 and $150,000 in private benefits due to the differences in incomes between young adults who were in long-term foster care and those who were adopted.[20] Thus, even small increases in adoption subsidy payments reap long-term rewards for the adopted children and society.

[1] Bramlett, M.D., Radel, L.F., & Blumberg, S.J. (2007). The health and well-being of adopted children. Pediatrics, 119, S54-S60.

[2] An Approach to Post-Adoption Services: A White Paper, p 5.

[3] Sedlak, A., & Broadhurst, D. D. (1993). Study of adoption assistance impact and outcomes: Final report. Rockville, MD: Westat.

[4] Sustaining Adoptive Families: A Qualitative Study of Public Post-Adoption Services, Center for Adoption Studies & American Public Human Services Association, DATE, p. 4.

[5] Triseliotis, J. (2002). “Long-term foster care or adoption? The evidence examined.” Child and Family Social Work, 7(1), 23-33.

[6] Hansen, M.E. (2006). The value of adoption. Washington, DC: American University. Retrieved from http://www.american.edu/cas/econ/workingpapers/1506.pdf (May 19, 2008).

[7] Courtney, M.E., Dworsky, A., Cusick, G.R., Havlicek, J. Perez, A. & Keller, T. (2007). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 21. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago AND Pecora, P. J., Kessler, R. K., Williams, J., O’Brien, K., Downs, A. C., English, D., White, C. R., Hiripi, E., Wiggins, T., & Holmes, K. (2005). Improving family foster care: Findings from the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study. Seattle, WA: Casey Family Programs.

[8] Brodzinsky, D.M., Schechter, M.D. & Henig, R.M. (1992). Being adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Doubleday AND Cahn, K. & Johnson, P. (Eds.) (1993). Children can’t wait: Reducing delays in out-of-home care. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America AND The Evan B. Donaldson Institute. (2004). What’s working for children: A policy study of adoption stability and termination. New York: Author.

[9] Schoeni, R.F. & Ross, K.E. (2005). Material assistance from families during the transition to adulthood, in R.A. Settersten, Jr., F.F. Furstenberg, Jr., & R.G. Rumbaut (Eds). On the frontier of adulthood: Theory, research, and public policy (pp 396–416). Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

[10] An Approach to Post-Adoption Services: A White Paper, p 9.

[11] “Post-Legal Adoption Services for Children with Special Needs and Their Families; Challenges and Lessons Learned,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, June 2005

[12] Avery, R. (2004).  Strengthening and Preserving Adoptive Families:  A Study of TANFFunded Post Adoption 

Services.  Available online: http://nysccc.org/wp‐content/uploads/tanfaverypasrpt.pdf 

[13] “Research on Postadoption Services: Implications for Practice, Program Development, and Policy” in The Postadoption Experience p. 295.

[14] Children’s Rights (2006), Ending the Foster Care Life Sentence: The Critical Need for Adoption Subsidies

[15] An Approach to Post-Adoption Services: A White Paper, p 7.

[16] “Perspectives on the Need for Adoption-Competent Mental Health Services,” Casey Family Services, October 2003, p. 72.

[17] “Adoption Support and Preservation Services: A Public Interest,” Spaulding for Children, revised May 2005

[18] An Approach to Post-Adoption Services: A White Paper, p 22.

[19] Hansen, M.E. (2006). The value of adoption.

[20] Hansen, M.E. (2006). The value of adoption.

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