A Family for Life: The Vital Need to Achieve Permanency for Children in Care
This Issue Brief is intended to provide a preview of and introduction to a book-length
Compendium that the Donaldson Adoption Institute plans to publish in late 2013. It is based on extensive, years-long research throughout the United States, England and Canada on 22 specific practices that facilitate the adoption of children from foster care, and it provides a synthesis of knowledge related to these practices, research on outcomes and recommended resources. Despite the growth of adoptions from the U.S. child welfare system over the past 15 years, over 26,000 youth “age out” of care annually, so state-of-the-art policies and practices are needed to help governments and practitioners fulfill their responsibility to truly serve children’s best interests.
Examples of innovative practices identified through the Adoption Institute’s research include:
The Department for Education in England publishes “Adoption Scorecards” for local authorities, which are publicly available. These scorecards show how quickly children in need of adoption are placed, and they graph local authorities’ performance on several key indicators in relation to the country as a whole, thus giving those local authorities the opportunity to monitor their own performance and compare it to others.
The strategic use of specialized adoption staff has been linked with improved adoption outcomes; for example, following the addition of a block of 25 new adoption workers in New Brunswick, Canada, the number of adoptions from care increased by 300%.
A project in Colorado, Denver’s Village, uses six Community-Based Diligent Recruitment Teams to target specific geographic areas. When the project began, children waited an average of 34.6 months after termination of parental rights to achieve permanency; after the project’s first four years, the average dropped to approximately 13 months.
The Province of Alberta established a photolisting service in 2003 and conducted an evaluation during its first year, reporting a 63 percent increase in applications received and screened and a 29 percent rise in those approved during the first year after its launch. Among applications approved during the year, 20 percent were due to the webpage.
In 2011 a rigorous evaluation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids – a child-specific recruitment model funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in over 120 sites in the U.S. and Canada – found that children in the test group were 1.7 times more likely to be adopted, with the greatest positive impact on older children and those with mental health disorders.
England requires adoption agencies to assess and plan for any contact that children adopted from care will have with their birth families and to offer all parties support in maintaining contact. Research there indicates a large majority of adoptive parents in direct contact arrangements remained satisfied that contact was in their children’s best interests