A Resource for Strengthening Adoptive Families With Older Kids

Posted June 25, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog aresourceforstrengtheningadoptive 2017

Four­teen years ago, Jeanne Miran­da brought home her new­ly adopt­ed 7‑year-old daugh­ter and 14-year-old son from Colom­bia. A psy­chol­o­gist who spe­cial­izes in cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py, Miran­da knew her chil­dren would need help work­ing through the cir­cum­stances of their past and what it now meant for them to be part of her family.

She sought out ther­a­pists who could help. What she found instead was a glar­ing absence of good, skilled pro­fes­sion­als who knew how to work with her old­er adopt­ed chil­dren. From that need, Miran­da devel­oped a solu­tion that the Casey Foun­da­tion is now help­ing to evaluate.

There were agen­cies doing care, but as a par­ent, I was frus­trat­ed try­ing to get good care and find­ing that so many pro­fes­sion­als didn’t know what they were doing,” recalls Miran­da, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Ange­les Depart­ment of Psy­chi­a­try and Biobe­hav­ioral Science.

Ten years after the adop­tion, Miran­da found an oppor­tu­ni­ty to change the land­scape in post-adop­tion care, espe­cial­ly for old­er chil­dren com­ing out of fos­ter care. Work­ing with UCLA’s TIES (Train­ing, Inter­ven­tion, Edu­ca­tion and Ser­vices) for Fam­i­lies pro­gram, she began the process of cre­at­ing a man­u­al for a pro­gram they called ADAPT. In essence, it’s a series of mod­ules that help adopt­ed chil­dren and their fam­i­lies bond and inte­grate in a healthy way. The inter­ven­tion tar­gets old­er chil­dren adopt­ed out of fos­ter care and their fam­i­lies and address­es their unique challenges.

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, Miran­da and TIES want­ed to cre­ate a pro­gram that could be repli­cat­ed in dif­fer­ent loca­tions and whose effi­ca­cy could be mea­sured. That’s where the Foun­da­tion became involved.

We are inter­est­ed in fund­ing and increas­ing the sup­ply of evi­denced-based pro­gram­ming, par­tic­u­lar­ly for gap pop­u­la­tions for which evi­dence-based pro­grams may not even exist,” says Cyn­thia Weaver, senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group. We want to increase the sup­ply of test­ed, effec­tive pro­grams to keep kids from unnec­es­sar­i­ly enter­ing pub­lic pro­grams — like child wel­fare and the juve­nile jus­tice system.”

The Foun­da­tion sup­port­ed the first efforts to cre­ate a man­u­al of prac­tice for ADAPT and to sys­tem­atize the col­lec­tion of robust data. A prime oppor­tu­ni­ty came when the Children’s Home Soci­ety of North Car­oli­na approached the devel­op­ers in late 2016 in search of an effec­tive post-adop­tive pro­gram with evi­dence behind it. As North Carolina’s largest adop­tion and fos­ter agency, Children’s Home Soci­ety imple­ments post-adop­tion clin­i­cal ser­vices for half the state, includ­ing some of its most under­served areas in the Appalachia region. The North Car­oli­na Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices is pay­ing the costs for Children’s Home Soci­ety to imple­ment ADAPT.

We were moti­vat­ed pure­ly by our desire to have an array of ser­vices that we could offer that could help with attach­ment and suc­cess in becom­ing a fam­i­ly,” says Kir­by Mor­row, a post-adop­tion clin­i­cal spe­cial­ist for the agency and one of the eight trained in ADAPT. You can help heal [a child’s] trau­ma, but you also need to help heal their abil­i­ty to be part of a family.”

Half of the 16 ther­a­pists in the agency were trained in ADAPT’s mod­ules of inter­ven­tion; the oth­er half serve as the con­trol group for the study. Data col­lec­tion will con­tin­ue into next year. Once the research is com­plet­ed, ADAPT will have the foun­da­tion to com­pete for much larg­er, sub­stan­tial fund­ing to fur­ther study the work and ulti­mate­ly to cre­ate a pro­gram that can make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of old­er adopt­ed chil­dren and their families.

Num­bers, that’s not some­thing you can fake,” Mor­row adds. I have a lot of hope for these fam­i­lies. I believe in them and I believe in these kids, but what [ADAPT] has done here has been incred­i­bly thoughtful.”

Learn how Casey is sup­port­ing eval­u­a­tion of a hos­pi­tal-based pro­gram to reduce violence

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