Journal Issue: Adoption Volume 3 Number 1 Spring 1993
Conclusion and Recommendations
Special needs adoption provides the route to full participation in family life for many children who would otherwise grow up in foster care, but it is not without problems. About 5% of adoptions of children with developmental disabilities and about 10% to 15% of adoptions of children older than 3 years at placement end in disruption. Further, about one-quarter of parents in older-child adoptions that remain intact express some reservation regarding their experience. Nevertheless, the substantial majority of special needs adoptive placements work well. Given that the foster care population continues to increase and that many children who are legally free for adoption wait for extended periods—or simply cannot be placed—adoption, at present, is not a timely option for all children who need it. In this sense, the success of special needs adoption is more limited.
Special needs adoption programs should be expanded. Barriers to obtaining financial adoption subsidies should be reduced to bring more families from all walks of life into adoptive parenthood. More effective recruitment of minority foster and adoptive parents can help address the needs of the increasing numbers of minority children in out-of-home placement. Even with the emphasis on providing permanent homes for children, many children in substitute care experience long delays prior to the development of a plan for permanency. More timely and more goal-directed decision making is needed.
Also needed are more sophisticated research designs that assess outcomes for different types of adoptive placement (adoption with "new" parents versus foster parents versus relatives) and that compare outcomes for adoption with those for legal guardianship, long-term foster care, and continued residence in the birth home.4 In particular, studies that rely on longitudinal rather than survey designs can determine causal factors that influence the course of the adoption. Research can help identify the kinds of pre- and post-placement services that are most helpful to children and families and by so doing point the way to effective policy and practice.