• June 2008
  • Vol. 9, No. 5

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What Makes Foster Care Adoption Successful?

A new report from the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids, Barriers and Success Factors in Adoption From Foster Care: Perspectives of Families and Staff, presents results from two longitudinal research studies spanning the first 5 years of the AdoptUsKids project (2002-2007). The first study examined the barriers experienced by families seeking to adopt children from foster care, while the second explored factors that contribute to successful adoption outcomes for families adopting children with special needs from foster care.

The study of adoption barriers is based on periodic interviews with 200 families in the process of adopting from the child welfare system and on surveys from 382 public and private adoption agency staff members. Families were compared according to whether they finalized or chose to discontinue the adoption. Findings focused on different types of barriers:

  • Families experienced agency-related barriers with greater frequency as they progressed through the adoption process, especially barriers related to adoption process logistics.
  • Families who discontinued the adoption process due to a disrupted placement experienced the highest frequency of child-related barriers.
  • Major family barriers identified in staff surveys included the type of child desired, criminal background of prospective parents, inability to accept certain child characteristics, unwillingness to access services, and lack of experience with children with special needs.

The study of adoption success factors involved 161 families (totaling 270 individual adoptive parents) who had finalized their adoptions between 1 and 14 years earlier. Key findings include:

  • Families identified parental commitment to the child and to the adoption's success, bonding between parent and child, signs of progress in the child, and parental preparation and realistic expectations as contributing factors in a successful adoption.
  • Attachment issues, significant child behavioral problems, and lack of services were the problems cited most often by families who felt their adoption was not successful.
  • The most helpful postadoption services cited by families were routine dental and medical care, counseling, training, support groups, and individual child therapy.

Download the full report, by Ruth G. McRoy, from the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids website:

www.adoptuskids.org/images/resourceCenter/BarrierSuccessFactors.pdf (1,230 - KB)

AdoptUsKids also created a video presenting the results of the two studies, which can be viewed online at:


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