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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

August 2012 Archives

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MN Adopt is offering a webinar on September 12, 2012 on Communicating with Birthparents/Families: An Adoptive Mother's Experience. The webinar will be hosted by Terssa Markworth, MA. Terssa Markworth and her husband of 25 years have adopted waiting children from Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and South Korea. She is currently completing her Master of Communication Studies degree program at the University of South Dakota Vermillion. Terssa enjoys speaking to civic groups, churches, professionals and other adoptive parents on how adoption has framed her family of 21 children.

From the description:

Open communication between adopted/foster kids and birthparents/families can be delicate. As caregivers to these children we want to ensure the best outcome while being sensitive to everyone involved. Join Terssa Markworth, adoptive parent of 17 as she shares her experiences from maintaining long-term communication with former foster parents to a Facebook friendship with a birthparent. Communicating with birth families has become more profound due to the internet, Facebook and cell phones. Special care must be taken when older children of sibling groups decide to search for birth parents. Terssa also discusses the approach she took when telling her adopted child about the death of a birthparent and how the "death of the dream" to later search affected the child. She shares strategies on how to effectively communicate with birth families while advocating for and supporting the needs of adopted children.

The webinar is $15 and you can register by clicking on this link. For more information on this, or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at or:

612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

This morning NPRran a story, Helping Foster Kids Even After Adoption, about the types of post-adoption supports that families that adopt from foster care often need.

image001[1].jpgOne of the interviewees on this show is Debbie Riley, our partner at the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE). CASE's Training on Adoption Competency curricuum is the basis for our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program.
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You can hear the podcast below, or click here to access it on the NPR site.

NPR Post-adoption support.mp3

For more information on our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program, click here.

browse.jpegChildren and youth that have experienced foster care, institutionalization and/or adoption often face additional struggles in school. Adoption Learning Partners and the Joint Council on International Children's Services is co-sponsoring a webinar, Adoption and Classroom Success: Beyond The Basics. The webinar will be held live Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 7:00PM Central time with a Q&A at 8:00PM. The cost of the webinar is $15.00

Presenter Heather T. Forbes will discuss how adoption experiences impact children in school.

From the webinar's description:

Circumstances prior to adoption often cause adopted children to experience school, among other things, in a different framework than other kids. Orphanage care, foster care or prenatal exposure are all events that can affect behavior as a child grows.

Heather will present tips and strategies on how to help your child be more successful at school, therefore easing some of the stress at home. Heather will cover:

  • How to smooth school-related transitions
  • Helping teachers understand what is driving a child's negative behaviors
  • How to increase your child's motivation to succeed at school

Forbes is the author of the popular Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors.

To register for the webinar, click here.

For more suggestions on how to help your adopted or fostered child prepare for and navigate school, you can also check out the fact sheets available from MN ADOPT.

Topics include:

  • Adoption-Competent School Assignments
  • Adoption-Friendly Curriculum
  • College Aid
  • Making IEPs User-Friendly
  • Planning for Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities
  • School Issues With the Youth or Teen with Attachment Issues: The Dog Ate My Homework
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Elementary Age Youth
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Junior and Senior High
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Pre-K and Kindergarten

Hear Me Now - the 2012 CCAI Foster Youth Internship Report

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Foster Youth Internship Report, Hear Me Now, has just been released.

The Foster Youth Internship program, created in 2003, provides opportunities for formerly fostered young adults to become congressional interns, where they learn about policies and the legislative process on foster care and adoption. The Foster Youth Internship program enables formerly fostered young adults to learn how to get their voices and policy recommendations heard. As part of the program, interns produce a policy report that they present at a congressional hearing.


The 2012 report, titled Hear Me Now, includes the most recent cohort's policy recommendations. The chapters and authors are:

  • Preventing Crossover from Foster Care into the Criminal Justice System / R.J. Sloke
  • Educating Congress: The Value of Investing in Post-Secondary Education for Foster Youth / Maurissa Sorensen
  • Age of Accountability / Tawny Spinelli
  • Care for Youth in Care: The Need for High-Quality Foster Parents / Ashley Lepse
  • Transitional Foster Youth, Post-Secondary Education, & Mentor Programs / Michael Duvall
  • Life's Transitions Do Not Occur Overnight / Briana Dovi
  • Foster Youth for Sale / Talitha James
  • An Information Database for Foster Youth / Marchelle Roberts
  • Putting Home Back in Group Home / James Williams
  • Leaving No Indian Child Behind / Daryle Conquering Bear
  • Having Options Provides Empowerment / Cristina Miranda
  • Lifelong Connections: You Determine My Fate / Dashun Jackson
  • A Pill for Every Problem: Overmedication and Lack of Mental Health Services among Foster Youth / Cassandra Cook

Executive Director Kathleen Strottman writes in this year's forward,

"For far too long we have let the voices of those in care go unheard...It has been my experience that the voices of foster care alumni are the ones we should be listening to more than any others. When they speak, things actually stand a chance of getting better. Not because their stories remind us of how far we have yet to go, but because their ingenuity and passion for making a difference show us just how far we can reach."
Listening to those who have been in care - the children that were in foster homes, institutions, and adopted - should be a top priority for any organization or agency that takes the title "child welfare" seriously. For all the lip service given about "the best interests of the child," it is the rare child welfare organization that asks those that were the children about their experiences or, even more rarely, what needs to be done better.

According to the CCAI website:

  • 100 former foster youth have used this experience as a foundation to go on and pursue a variety of distinguished careers
  • 60 Members of Congress have heard the voice of former foster youth and are now educated about issues affecting their lives
  • 10 Congressional briefings have provided firsthand knowledge to policymakers
  • 125 policy recommendations have been presented to policymakers
  • 37% of FYIs have gone on to pursue graduate, law, and doctoral degrees
  • 47% of FYIS enter careers in social service

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

You can download a PDF of the report from the CCAI blog here.

A while back I blogged about food issues among children that have experienced foster care, institutionalization and adoption. I was recently at a conference and saw this wonderful resource created by the SPOON Foundation called Adoption Nutrition: A Starter Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents.

This guide provides helpful information and hints about common nutrient deficiencies adopted children may have, understanding feeding challenges and tips for transitioning your child's diet.

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You can request a copy of the booklet here. It's free! The website is full of information as well, so I recommend taking time to look through all the pages. This is a great resource for foster and adoptive parents, but also for adoption professionals and mental health specialists working with children and families that might be experiencing food and eating issues.

Thumbnail image for 00262697.jpgAs the recent AFCARS figures show, approximately 22% of the children in the U.S. waiting for adoption are Hispanic (of all races). According to a recent report by the Casey Latino Leadership Group, the number of children in care more than doubled over the past 20 years, and issues such as deportation laws are a factor in this increased number of Latino children in care.

More on Latino children in the child welfare system and the recruitment efforts for Latino foster and adoptive parents, are as follows.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) is looking for submissions for their 39th annual conference, to be held in Toronto, Ontario next August 7-10, 2013. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, November 2, 2012.

From the NACAC website:

NACAC encourages adoptive and foster parents, child welfare professionals, adoptees, birth parents, former foster youth, researchers, therapists, and other child advocates to submit workshop and institute proposals for the 2012 conference. Three-hour institutes will take place Thursday, August 8. Workshops of 90 or 120 minutes will run from Thursday morning through Saturday.

More information along with a downloadable PDF of the call for proposals is available here.

The Children's Bureau released a new Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) report for 2011 (October 1-September 30, 2011). According to the report:

  • In 2011, there was a continued trend toward fewer childrThumbnail image for 00202032.jpgen waiting for adoption (104,236 children, down from 109,456 in 2010 and from 133,682 in 2007).
  • During the reporting period, parental rights were terminated for 61,361 children.
  • The mean age for children waiting for adoption was 8 years, and their mean age when they entered foster care was 5 years.
  • 23% of the children were in relative foster homes, and 54% were in non-relative foster homes.
  • 12% of the children were in pre-adoptive homes.
  • 9% of the children were in a group home or institution.
  • 40% of the children waiting for adoption were white, 28% Black or African American, 22% Hispanic of any race, 6% two or more races and 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native.
  • 53% of the children were boys and 47% were girls.
  • The mean time these children had been in care was 23.6 years.

Download a PDF of the report here or go to the Statistics and Research page of the ACF website.

For many children in foster care or those adopted from foster care, being separated from one or more sibling is unfortunately a common experience. Although the sibling relationship is the longest relationship any person will have to another family member, about 70% of the children in foster care also have another sibling in care. Because of many barriers, these siblings are often placed in separate homes. Some children lose contact with their siblings and never have the chance to develop a relationship.

Resources such as Camp To Belong and Camp Connect (featured in this article) are one way that child welfare professionals and adoptive and foster parents can support sibling relationships.

Camp To Belong

Camp Connect

For more information on best practices with sibling groups in foster care and adoption, the following resources may be helpful.

When adoptive parents target adopted children for abuse

Photo of two adoptive parents who targeted their adopted children for abusePhoto by Chris Wilson for the Journal Sentinel

The abuse of children who have been adopted by their adoptive parents is particularly tragic, considering that adoption is supposed to be the safe haven for children who have already experienced the traumatic dissolution of their birth families.

A recent case of the abuse of internationally adopted children born in Russia and adopted to a family in Wisconsin has increased the tensions between Russia and the U.S. when it comes to the welfare of Russian adopted children. At least 18 Russian adopted children have been murdered by their American adoptive parents and many more Russian adoptees have been abused.

According to reports, the adoptive parents in this case targeted their adopted children for abuse and included their biological children in the abuse.

Below are a selection of news reports about this case.

The University of Minnesota has some amazing scholars researching adoption. Here is a presentation by Megan Gunnar, Department Chair and Regents Professor at the Institute on Child Development here at the University of Minnesota, presenting a keynote address on the developing adolescent brains of post-institutionalized adopted children at the 2012 Rudd Adoption Conference, New Worlds of Adoption: Navigating the Teen Years.

For more presentations from this conference, visit the Rudd Adoption Research Program's YouTube page.

  • Disruption: When an adoption fails prior to finalization of the adoption.
  • Dissolution: When an adoption fails after the adoption has been finalized.

todaymoms.PNGOn Wednesday, Today Moms discussed the issue of adoption disruptions and dissolutions in an article entitled It takes more than love: What happens when adoption fails. It seems that the goal of the article was to address the negative public opinion surrounding adoptive parents whose adoptions have failed by highlighting the challenges that adoptive parents face when adopting older, traumatized children from foster care or internationally. This article reminds us that one cannot expect these children to leave their trauma at their previous home or their birth country's borders:

"'She'd sit on my lap when the nannies were around, but the minute they'd walk away, she'd spit in my face,' Sage says. 'And whenever I'd get in the shower, she'd tear the room apart. She even ripped up the documents that I had to give to INS. I came home with PTSD.'"

Sage sought therapy for her daughter and eventually discovered the little girl suffered from reactive attachment disorder, a condition where children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers and display a host of symptoms such as aggression towards peers, withdrawal or attention-seeking behavior."

The article cites disruption statistics from a literature review that was conducted by our Center in 2010 concerning adoption disruptions and dissolutions:

  • Between 6 and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted.
  • For kids over the age of 3, that rate ranges from 10 to 16 percent.
  • For teens, it can be as high as 24 percent, nearly 1 out of every 4 adoptions.

According to this article, adoption disruptions and dissolutions occur more frequently among older children, especially those who have had adverse childhood experiences (a given for children in foster care) and/or who have developed challenging behaviors, and those children with special needs, especially those with emotional difficulties and sexual acting out. Additionally, the article states that

"younger adoptive parents, inexperienced parents, and parents who both work outside the home are linked with higher levels of disruption. Wealthier parents and more educated mothers, in particular, are also more likely to disrupt an adoption."

So what happens to the kids?


When adoptions disrupt or dissolve, the child is likely to enter foster care. When international adoptions fail, the adoption agency also often informs the birth country of what has happened, but (according to the article) never sends the child back home. For dissolutions, the parents must go to court to end the parent-child relationship.

In any case, the experience of adoption disruption or dissolution is likely to hurt the child's emotional wellbeing. An adoption counselor in the article mentioned depression, distrust, control issues, and rigid behavior as some possible lifelong issues the child may face. Additionally, the child's ability to attach to caregivers is reduced when placements disrupt.

Preparation, preparation, preparation... And post-adoption services!

The article concludes with recommendations for adoptive parents to be fully prepared prior to adopting, and to remove the "rose-colored glasses" surrounding the act of adoption. One adoptive parent states that it is important to let go of the notion of an "ideal child" and to allow the child to adapt to the family structure and expectations.

Another important aspect of the adoption process is to continue with support services after the adoption takes place, through post-adoption support services. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced a bill during this legislative session to enhance both pre- and post-adoption support services and provide for funding for such services: S. 1318 Supporting Adoptive Families Act.

Remember, our Center offers a certificate for mental health and child welfare professionals who help children achieve permanency. Check out the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate here.

Did you read the article? What did you think? Any experiences with adoption disruption or dissolution? Comment below!

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The Child Welfare Information Gateway has created a factsheet for adopted individuals and birth families on the search and reunion process.

This publication also includes information on hiring a professional searcher, using social media, and issues that come up in the reunion process.

The resource is free and you can download it as a PDF here, or you can go to the Child Welfare Information Gateway webpage on Searching for Birth Relatives.