• July/August 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 4

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Distance Learning Offers New Options for Adoption Preparation

Learning from home is a new option for prospective adoptive parents, thanks to the first totally online parent preparation course, which is offered at the National Adoption Center's AdoptNet website (http://www.adoptnet.org). If a prospective parent's agency agrees, the course can serve as a substitute for the parent class requirement that is part of many home study courses.

The 6-week online "Adoption Road Map" course is an adaptation of a course that was originally developed to train families in the Tri-State Philadelphia area. It has been designed for the computer novice, with instructors that guide students in the use of email, message boards, and live chat rooms. The course is designed to prepare adults for the adoption process and for parenting adopted children, especially children with special needs. Worksheets containing "thinking" questions are used in lieu of tests. Parts of these worksheets are discussed online in chat "classes." For further information on any topic in the course, various websites and books are listed at the end of each course section.

Some of the major concepts of the course are:

  • Adoption is a lifelong experience.
  • Adoption is a distinct form of family-building.
  • Use adoption support before, during, and after placement.
  • Advocate for your child.
  • Learn skills, develop tools, access resources.
  • Needing support is normal.
  • Other parents offer best sources of information and support

AdoptNet offers other features for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, such as a chat room, transcripts of adoption chats with leading experts, hundreds of free magazine articles, a message board, and links to other sites.

Launched in 2000, the online course is now offered approximately every 6-8 weeks. Since December, 37 professionals and 29 prospective parents have taken the course. According to Ann McCabe, project manager for the federally funded AdoptNet Learning Center, feedback has been extremely positive. One prospective father in New York commented, "This type of learning fits well into my active lifestyle. I feel richer for having been a part of this class." A social worker in Pennsylvania remarked, "Having this course as an option for families I serve offers me a great deal of support as an adoption worker."

Although participants have responded favorably, McCabe finds resistance among States. "Some of the barriers that we are finding are that many States, approximately 40, have State mandates for a specific training curriculum," said McCabe. "These States seem less open to considering an online training as a viable option for their families."

Future enhancements to the online course include a new section on sexual abuse. "We hope to give parents information that will help them better parent those children who may come to them with sexual abuse in their background," said McCabe. She also anticipates using new forms of technology to enhance the course, such as Web streaming audio and video options.

For more information about the Adoption Road Map course, visit http://www.adoptnet.org/tour.

Contact information:

Ann McCabe, Project Manager
AdoptNet Learning Center
National Adoption Center
1500 Walnut St., Suite 701
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 1-800-TO-ADOPT or 215-735-9988
Email: ann@adoptnet.org

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