Post-adoption support across the country: Themes and opportunities
Between 2019 and 2021, AdoptUSKids surveyed states and territories to learn more about what post-adoption and guardianship services look like across the country. We collected this information from public agency adoption managers or their designees so that adoptive families could learn about the support available in their communities.
With responses from 46 states and three territories, we learned a lot about the landscape of post-adoption and guardianship support around the country. We knew it would also be helpful for child welfare professionals to learn about the major themes and opportunities the survey presented.
It’s important to remember that states and territories are incredibly diverse. Support approaches work best when they are tailored to the populations they seek to help. Each jurisdiction’s support priorities should be guided by the needs of those they serve, and those with lived experience in foster care, adoption, and guardianship should be at the table when decisions are made.
With that in mind, here are some broad takeaways from the post-adoption and guardianship support survey results, including opportunities for improvement.
When resource parents are surveyed about their needs, they often report both a high need for respite care and difficulty in accessing it. A majority of states and territories (61%) reported that they don’t include respite services in their post-adoption and guardianship support programs.
If your jurisdiction does not currently offer respite care to these families, consider adding respite care and/or thinking creatively about how to incorporate more respite care into existing services.
Learn more about creating and sustaining respite services in an AdoptUSKids guide that summarizes lessons in the field and a tip sheet that describes how child welfare systems are providing respite care.
Intensive therapeutic services
We know that many adoptive and guardianship families will need intensive therapeutic services throughout their lives. Though community-based therapeutic services are more frequently available, other intensive services, like in-home or residential therapeutic services, are only included in post-adoption and guardianship services in a minority of jurisdictions (29%).
When families experience access barriers to intensive therapeutic services, those families are at increased risk of adoption or guardianship dissolution. This is especially true in jurisdictions where youth may need to enter—or reenter—foster care to access residential therapeutic services, as out-of-home placements are known to increase the likelihood of adoption or guardianship dissolution.
It was great to see that a majority of jurisdictions offer publicly funded support to guardians! Some jurisdictions reported even broader eligibility, including private guardianships or other kinship arrangements. Additionally, many jurisdictions that do not currently provide support services to guardians indicated that they were hoping to offer them in their next budget cycle.
The support available to guardians, however, is not always equal to that which is available to adoptive families. When states indicated that guardianship families are eligible for support services, many states require them to be receiving a guardianship subsidy to access support.
Support tied to subsidy agreements
In many states and territories, several of their support services were only available as part of an individual child’s negotiated subsidy agreement. When support services are only available to those who are receiving an adoption or guardianship subsidy, many families with the same challenges are left without needed support.
Less support for private or international adoptions
Only 46% of states and territories are providing post-adoption support services to families who adopt privately or internationally.
While it is understandable that many states prioritize support for those who adopted children from the US child welfare system, we know that families who have adopted privately face many of the same challenges as families who adopt from foster care. Children in these families are also at risk for foster care entry and additional trauma experiences if they do not have access to support services.
It was encouraging to learn that ten states and territories reported having increased their budgets for post-adoption and guardianship support in the last five years. Two of those jurisdictions even increased their budgets by more than 50 percent! However, adoptions have been increasing over the last five years across the country, and we would hope all jurisdictions’ post-adoption support budgets would increase as those programs serve more families.
As state budgets fluctuate as a continued result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be important for child welfare leaders to advocate for and prioritize post-adoption and guardianship support budgets.
Easy access to support is so important
Access to post-permanency support services is critical for the preservation of adoption and guardianship families. It is encouraging that so many leaders are seeing the importance of post-adoption and guardianship support and are prioritizing it.
If you are considering improving your post-adoption and guardianship support programs, AdoptUSKids may be able to help you! Contact our Capacity Building and Engagement Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with us about your needs.
For specific information about individual states or territories, check out our post-adoption and guardianship support pages.