The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released it's initial phase of research which explored the preparation and education of adoptive parents, Adoptive Parent Preparation Project Phase I: Meeting the Mental Health and Developmental Needs of Adopted Children. The 18 page Policy and Practice Perspective's main recommendations included the need for more information about adoption and foster care for professionals' graduate training programs and better continuing-education, parent training before and after adoption, professions need to provide a realistic view of adoption that focuses on skills, expectations, and the needs of an adopted child, community-based mental health professionals need better training in areas related to adoption.
The second phase will involve the development of curriculum modules for training parents on issues related to adoption. The first of the modules will focus on mental health issues. These should be available later in the year.
The study points out difficult it is to develop healthy expectations when adoptive parents are given such little information on a child's origins. This is especially true when adopting internationally or from the foster care system where there is a higher risk of medical and/or psychological issues. One issue is the fact that there is such a wide variable in how each agency, adoption attorney, or other adoption professional prepares and educates adoptive parents. Some offer many different opportunities for pre-adoption and post-adoption training, while others offer very little. The study describes this phase of the study as a "roadmap" for the development of curricula for professions to use in educating adoptive parents.
Obstacles to Adoptive Parent Preparation and Education
The study noted some of the following obstacles.
- Adoption professionals are not adequately trained in areas related to adoption and foster care.
- Lack of funding to support programs aimed at training adoptive parents.
- High staff turnover.
- Some professions view adoption unrealistically and therefore come with their own biases regarding adoption.
- Some agencies view adoption a business.
- Lack of information on a child's birth family.
- Not enough birthparents and adoptees represented in adoption professional positions.
- Lack of post-adoption support in many communities.
Based on research, consultations with adoption professionals and adoptive parents, and the trends of adoption training and education, the Adoption Institute offers the following general recommendations as groundwork for the education and support of adoptive parents.
- Increase the education and adoption competency of professionals in the field by adding to their graduate training programs and offering more extensive continuing education opportunities.
Anyone facilitating adoptions need to be trained to prepare families for adoption. The training aspect needs to be ongoing through the adoption process and into post adoption.
Group and individual training programs should be implemented utilizing adult learning theory. Web-based courses should also be utilized when families are unable to attend courses due to their location.
Help adoptive parents manage unrealistic expectations of adoption by sharing the child's background information and helping them thoroughly understand the child's needs.
Better training for those in the mental health field as they are usually the ones called in as support to the adoptive family.
Content Areas for Parent Preparation and Education
The following are the areas that the report feels adoptive parents need to be educated.
- Mental health issues associated with adoption.
- Normative parenting issues in adoptive family life.
- Developmental issues in adoption.
- Talking with children about adoption.
- Role of loss and grief in adoption.
- Identity issues in adoption.
- Role of the search process in adoption.
- Support services in adoption.
- As well as very specific training for those who adopted from other countries, the foster care system, or transracially, open adoptions, or gay/lesbian adoptions.
The report concludes by stating, "The Adoption Institute hopes this paper will encourage professionals to become better prepared to meet the needs of their clients and set more uniform standards for preparing, education and supporting adoptive parents to meet the mental health and developmental needs of their children."