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Dec/Jan 2010Vol. 10, No. 10Recasting "Adoption Displacement"

The term "adoption displacement" has become increasingly accepted as a way to refer to the situation of adopted children who return to foster care or group care. In a recent article in the Journal of Child Welfare, authors Trudy Festinger and Penelope Maza suggest that the negative connotations associated with this term may affect the expectations of professionals involved and unfairly label the children in this situation.

In its place, Festinger and Maza suggest use of the term "postadoption placement," which is less value laden. This term better reflects research findings that show that most of the children who enter foster care after adoption eventually return to their adoptive homes after a period of placement.

Using fiscal year 2005 data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) administered by the Children's Bureau, the authors analyzed data on children in State child welfare systems who had ever been adopted. Compared to children in the child welfare system who had never been adopted, those who had been adopted were more likely to be older (often in their teens), more likely to enter care because of behavior problems, and more likely to be placed in group settings. When the previously adopted children exited foster care, the majority returned to their adoptive homes. For those whose adoptions had dissolved, most were again adopted.

These statistics indicate that for those adopted children who enter foster care, the foster care placement is just temporary until they return home or to another permanent placement. Therefore, "postadoption placement" better describes their circumstances and avoids the negative connotations of "adoption displacement."

Festinger and Maza's article appeared in the Journal of Child Welfare, Vol. 3(3) from July 2009 and is available for purchase on the publisher's website: