In fiscal year 2003, the Children’s Bureau awarded more than $7 million in discretionary grants and cooperative agreements to support demonstration activities related to adoption. Grantees included eight state human services agencies seeking to reduce barriers to the adoption of special needs children.
Five grantees completed their projects as scheduled on September 30, 2008, while three received no-cost extensions. Many projects focused on teens in foster care with few or no identified permanency resources. This report synthesizes information from evaluation reports submitted by all grantees.
Key Process Evaluation Findings
- Most grantees enrolled fewer children than originally projected, with the ratio of projected to actual enrollments varying from 43 percent to about 80 percent.
- Although overall enrollment levels were lower than expected, most projects did successfully enroll those youth who were referred for service, with ratios of referrals to enrollments ranging between 70 and 100 percent.
- Among states that provided information on prospective resources families, about half of recruited families finished foster/adoption training and completed a home study or assessment. Most families that completed training and/or a home study were eventually approved to serve as adoptive or foster homes.
- The most common general and targeted recruitment activities included media outreach, adoption awareness events, and community education events such as conferences and speaking engagements at local churches and community centers.
- When finding families for specific children, the most common recruitment activities included intensive people finding services, permanency and recruitment planning teams, and direct advocacy by project staff to county caseworkers, prospective resource families, and court staff.
- States cited a lack of services supporting permanent child placements, including mental health and therapeutic services, as a barrier to project implementation.
Key Outcome Evaluation Findings
- Among participating states, Connecticut achieved the highest rate of legal permanency for participants at 81 percent of enrolled youth. Legal permanency rates for three grantees (California, Maine, Minnesota) hovered at or slightly higher than 40 percent.
- In Georgia, more caregivers assumed guardianship/legal custody of an enrolled child (17 percent) than in any other project, while Maine achieved the highest rate of finalized adoptions at 42 percent of enrolled youth.
- Minnesota’s finalized adoption rate of 31 percent compares favorably with the finalized adoption rate of 21 percent observed in the comparison group. When intact preadoptive placements are added to these figures, the difference in adoption rates becomes statistically significant (39 percent vs. 24 percent in the comparison group).
- Using a broader definition of total permanency, Massachusetts achieved the highest rate at 92 percent of enrolled youth, followed closely by California (87 percent) and Connecticut (83 percent). Almost all Massachusetts youth who achieved permanency under this broader definition did so through informal “permanent” arrangements or meaningful long-term connections with one or more adults.
- Several projects worked with enrolled youth to broaden their vision of permanency. California, for example, sought to make youth comfortable with the idea of permanency through strong and meaningful bonds with caring relative and non-relative adults.