Research: Institute Research
A FAMILY FOR LIFE:
THE VITAL NEED TO ACHIEVE PERMANENCY FOR CHILDREN IN CARE
Author: Susan Livingston Smith and Institute staff
Published: 2013 April, New York, NY: Donaldson Adoption Institute
Document Type: Policy Perspective (24 pages)
Availability: PDF Full Report | Press Release
The Donaldson Adoption Institute issued this initial report – based on extensive research throughout the U.S., England and Canada – on 22 practices that facilitate the adoption of children from foster care. This Issue Brief is intended to provide a preview of and introduction to a book-length Compendium that the Institute plans to publish in late 2013.
A few examples of innovative practice strategies identified in "A Family for Life: The Vital Need to Achieve Permanency for Children in Care," include:
- "Adoption Scorecards" in England tracked how quickly children in need of adoption were placed and graphed local authorities' performance on key indicators in relation to the country as a whole.
- The strategic use of specialized adoption staff improved outcomes; for example, after the addition of 25 specialized workers in New Brunswick, Canada, adoptions from care grew by 300%.
- In Colorado, Community-Based Diligent Recruitment Teams were used to target specific geographic areas; in four years, the average wait until adoption dropped from 34.6 to 13 months.
- An evaluation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, child-specific recruitment model, utilized in sites in the U.S. and Canada, found youth were 1.7 times more likely to be adopted.
The Institute chose to study practices for achieving permanency in the U.S., Canada and England because these three countries all promote adoption or guardianship as alternatives for children in foster care who cannot return to their original families. The research was funded in part by the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation.
"Gaining families for life not only transforms the futures of children, but also brings benefits to child welfare systems, governments and communities," said Susan Smith, the Institute’s Program Director and chief author of the report. "Our hope is that practitioners everywhere will examine the innovative practices we’ve identified, incorporate them and, as a result, improve outcomes for children."
Based on its research, the Institute offers a range of recommendations in its report, including:
- Laws and policies requiring efforts to achieve permanency for every child who cannot return home.
- Tracking outcomes to understand barriers to permanency and enforce accountability to achieve it.
- Aggressive family-finding and engagement to maximize the use of kin as permanency resources.
- Reducing barriers and disincentives to adoption/guardianship with adequate, reliable subsidies.