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September 2004Vol. 5, No. 7Relationship Between Post-Adoption Services and Adoption Outcomes

A study published recently in the Journal of Social Service Research found a significant relationship between post-adoption service utilization and positive adoption outcomes. Outcomes examined included parental satisfaction, quality of parent-child relationships, perceived impact of the child's adoption on the family, and perceived impact of the child's adoption on the marriage (if applicable).

Study participants included 249 of the 609 families in Nevada who were receiving adoption subsidies or who had an adoption subsidy agreement. Each family completed a "Needs and Satisfaction With Services Inventory," addressing whether they needed and/or received particular services.

The most needed services reported by adoptive parents on behalf of their children included:

  • Other financial benefits (health benefits)--78 percent
  • Financial subsidies--73 percent
  • Dental care--65 percent
  • Routine medical care--63 percent
  • Individual counseling--52 percent

Financial and needed medical supports were the most frequently reported services received; the majority of caregivers were able to obtain these services. There were, however, significant reports of unmet needs. For example, only 28 percent of respondents indicated they had received needed respite care services. Counseling and in-home supports were the most frequently reported unmet needs.

Researchers found a significant correlation between parents' receipt of services and their satisfaction with parenting. In particular, parents who received informal support services (support groups, time with other adoptive parents), financial services (subsidies, health insurance), or other support services (social work coordination, legal services) reported higher satisfaction with parenting.

Conversely, unmet needs in the following areas were associated with lower quality of parent-child relationships and more negative impact on the family and married life:

  • Counseling
  • Informal supports
  • Out-of-home placement
  • Financial services
  • In-home supports
  • Other service needs (as defined above)

Contrary to findings from other studies, no differences were found between adoption outcomes reported by former foster parents and those reported by parents new to the adoptive child.

Based on their findings, the authors offer the following recommendations for child welfare agencies:

  • Develop a list of in-home and out-of-home respite services available to adoptive families.
  • Develop and nurture informal supports for adoptive families.
  • Provide adoption-specific training for community mental health providers.
  • Promote policies that support enhanced subsidies, ensure subsidy agreements are in place for all families adopting special needs children, and attempt to make the application process for subsidies less bureaucratic.
  • Have specific post-adoption staff available to work with families who adopt special needs children.
  • Link families who have adopted with each other and assist in the formation of support systems for parents and children.
  • Develop adoption recruitment efforts that target the larger community, not just existing foster parents.

"Post-Adoption Service Needs of Families With Special Needs Children: Use, Helpfulness, and Unmet Needs" was published in the Journal of Social Service Research (Vol. 30, No. 4). Find more information about the journal or order a copy of this article online at