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November 2021Vol. 22, No. 10Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship

A study published in the Journal of Public Child Welfare, "Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship," evaluated the use of administrative data in identifying families who need postpermanency supports. Identifying these at-risk families can be challenging. Public systems do not regularly collect information about child well-being after children have been placed, and there is often limited funding for these postadoption activities. Agencies typically only become aware of a struggling family after they are contacted by the families themselves. Many agencies also already struggle with funding their services and do not have extra funds to use on collecting additional data or widespread outreach. The researchers set out to determine whether utilizing the administrative information already collected during various points of the adoption and guardianship processes can be a way to alleviate some of the costs of identifying families in need of additional supports and create a path for targeted services for the families who need it most.

For the study, the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation, a service of the Children's Bureau, compared the risk profiles of adoptive and guardianship families using administrative data to understand the risk of postpermanency discontinuity. The researchers also analyzed data collected from surveys administered to parents and guardians from four sites in the United States (Catawba County, NC; Vermont; Illinois; and New Jersey) who adopted through public agencies. The surveys focused on measures of child behavior, caregiver strain, and family relationships as well as whether the adoptive parent was inclined to adopt again. The survey responses were used to answer the following research questions:

  • How well did the administrative data identify at-risk families or families who were struggling?
  • Are there key measures, scales, or individual questions that could be asked of all adoptive and guardianship families to allow us to identify adoptive and guardianship families who are struggling?

The study's findings suggest that administrative data may be an unreliable indicator for identifying families struggling after adoption. However, the research indicated that these survey questions could form the basis of a check-in for families after adoptions or guardianships are finalized and help identify and engage struggling families for prevention services. 

To learn more about the study, read "Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship" in the Journal of Public Child Welfare.