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February 2005Vol. 6, No. 1Barriers and Promising Approaches to Foster Care Adoption

Last year's release of data from the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico provided the most comprehensive information to date on how States handle child welfare, including foster care adoption. Now, the Urban Institute has taken the CFSR information on foster care adoption one step further by compiling a State-by-State analysis of the data, highlighting both the barriers that States face and the promising approaches that many have developed in their efforts to place children from foster care into permanent adoptive homes. In addition, this report condenses the CFSR information on foster care adoption into an easily readable format that highlights both national trends and State practices.

The Urban Institute's report draws from the ratings each State received on seven adoption-related items on their CFSRs, as well as from the supporting text for the ratings, statewide assessments, and Program Improvement Plans. Using this information, barriers to foster care adoption were found to occur most commonly in five areas:

  1. Termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings, where barriers include insufficient prior services and reluctance by courts and agencies to terminate if an adoptive home has not been identified.
  2. Recruitment of adoptive homes, where barriers include difficulty in finding homes for children with special needs and in finding homes that reflect the diversity of the children.
  3. Child welfare case management, where barriers include staff turnover and insufficient staff training.
  4. Court case management, where barriers include crowded dockets and lack of communication with child welfare agencies.
  5. Establishment or change of permanency goal, where barriers include maintaining a goal of reunification for too long and preferring a permanency goal of long-term foster care over adoption.

A variety of promising approaches to address barriers to adoption were reported in the States' CFSRs. These promising approaches were found most commonly in five areas:

  1. Recruitment of adoptive homes, where approaches include conducting extensive recruiting campaigns and collaborating with other agencies.
  2. Child welfare case management, where approaches include reorganizing staff to create adoption units and providing staff training.
  3. Approval of adoptive homes, where approaches include dual-licensing of foster/adoptive parents and contracting out the approval process.
  4. Permanency hearings, where approaches include the use of tracking systems and Court Improvement Project Bench Books.
  5. Postadoption services, where approaches include the establishment of adoption subsidies and postadoption services.

The full report, Foster Care Adoption in the United States: A State by State Analysis of Barriers and Promising Approaches, can be found on the Urban Institute's website: (PDF 4.03 MB)

The report was commissioned by the National Adoption Day Coalition, which consists of the Alliance for Children's Rights, Casey Family Services, Children's Action Network, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Freddie Mac Foundation, and Target Corporation.