A New Organization and a New Focus: Enabling Children and Families to Succeed.
When families struggle to address the consequences of children's early adversity, they should be able to receive -- as a matter of course integral to the adoption process, and not as an "add-on" that can be subtracted -- services that meet their needs and sustain them.
By Adam Pertman, Contributor.
President of National Center on Adoption and Permanency.
Finding safe, permanent homes for children in fo0ster care -- usually through adoption when they cannot return to their families of origin -- has become a federal mandate and a national priority during the past few decades. That's obviously a very good thing, but there's a too-little-discussed downside to this positive trend: Far too little attention is being paid to serving children after placement to ensure that they can grow up successfully in their new families and so that their parents can successfully raise them to adulthood.
Notice the use of the word "successfully" twice in the last paragraph. It's the key. It's also the founding principle of a new organization I'm proud to lead, the National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP). Our mission is to move policy and practice in the U.S. beyond their current concentration on child placement to a model in which enabling families of all kinds to succeed -- through education, training and support services -- becomes the bottom-line objective.
Along with fellow NCAP team members, I'll be writing more about our organization and its goals in subsequent commentaries. For now, please check out our website and know we are already at work around the country. Furthermore, I'm delighted to announce that we're entering into an exciting new partnership designed to significantly enhance our efforts; it is with the American Institutes for Research, one of the world's largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. In addition, we are partnering with the Chronicle for Social Change, which like NCAP is dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families.
Because of the traumatic experiences most children in foster care have endured, a substantial proportion of them have ongoing adjustment issues, some of which can intensify as they age. And many if not most girls and boys being adopted from institutions in other countries today have had comparable experiences that pose risks for their healthy development.
Preparing and supporting adoptive and guardianship families before and after placement not only helps to preserve and stabilize at-risk situations, but also offers children and families the best opportunity for success. Furthermore, such adoptions not only benefit children, but also result in reduced financial and social costs to child welfare systems, governments and communities.
A continuum of Adoption Support and Preservation (ASAP) services is needed to address the informational, therapeutic and other needs of these children and their families. The overall body of adoption-related research is clear on this count: Those who receive such services show more positive results, and those with unmet service needs are linked with poorer outcomes.