Develop and Support Families

Adoption Support and Preservation

This is one of 31 program profiles that appears in Support Matters, Lessons from the Field on Services for Adoptive, Foster, and Kinship Care Families (PDF – 2 MB), published March 2015.

Overview

Tennessee’s Adoption Support and Preservation (ASAP) network offers an array of services, including pre-adoption training, in-home therapy, respite care through relief team development, support groups, a website, a Facebook page, crisis intervention, a lending library, therapeutic family camps, and advocacy.

Population Served

  • All types of adoptive families in Tennessee. Services are free to families who adopt from foster care. International adoptive families are asked to pay a small fee, based on a sliding scale, and typically receive therapy in an office rather than at home.
  • Families of 680 children were served during fiscal year 2012, including 200 to 300 who received pre-adoption training and 350 to 400 who received treatment from therapists.

Theory of Change

Families need preparation for the lifetime commitment of adoption and many need ongoing therapeutic and other family support services to elevate overall family satisfaction and stability. ASAP is dedicated to supporting a family’s capacity to foster resiliency through attachment, self-regulation, and competency building.

Provider

The program is funded by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, through contracts with two private, nonprofit adoption agencies:

  • Harmony Family Center, serving eastern Tennessee
  • Catholic Charities of Tennessee, serving western Tennessee

Role of Public Child Welfare Agency

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is the primary funder of the program and administers the program. The department also provides each new adoptive family with information about the program.

Key Service Components

  • Pre-adoption training — The network designed its own attachment-based, trauma-informed adoption preparation training that covers topics such as caregiver motivation and expectations, parental self-awareness, attachment and resiliency building skills, how to build a relief team, grief and loss, race and culture, and emotional triggers.
  • In-home therapeutic services — Master’s level clinicians provide in-home therapy to children and families throughout the state. The therapists use trauma-informed, evidence-based and promising techniques including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency model; and Trust-Based Relational Intervention.
  •  Crisis intervention — Therapists are on call 24 hours a day to help families address crises.
  • Help to develop a support network — Staff work with parents to help them identify their own relief network, a natural support system that can provide ongoing support and respite care.
  • Support groups — Therapists ran 36 support groups around the state for both parents and children in fiscal year 2012, serving almost 500 families. In addition, social events such as parents’ night out and family fun night also enable families to support one another.
  • Advocacy — Program staff work with families to address
  • needs that may arise, including problems at school, day care, or elsewhere in the community. For children whose adoptions are not finalized, staff work collaboratively to address barriers to permanency, and build a team with workers, teachers, parents, guardians ad litem, and others involved in the child’s life. The goal of this team is to ensure that professionals remain focused on the child’s needs, including on achieving placement permanency and developmental permanency for the child.
  • Website — The site lists trainings, events, and support groups, and links to numerous adoption-related resources.
  • Retreats — ASAP hosts an annual R.E.S.T. (Respite Education Support & Training) retreat that provides parents an opportunity to spend a weekend learning from one another, while also experiencing leisure time.
  • Family camps — Beginning in 2012, the network has hosted weekend therapeutic camps serving the entire adoptive family. In 2013, they offered four camps that promote attachment and strengthen relationships by offering individual and family counseling, equine-assisted therapy, and recreational activities.
  • In addition, ASAP provides training to mental health providers and other community members to increase the community’s capacity to support adoptive families.

Outreach Efforts

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services sends each family a packet of information about the program upon the adoption finalization. Other outreach efforts include:

  • The ASAP website 
  • Attending, exhibiting, and presenting at foster parent trainings, pre-adoption panels, and other events
  • Actively participating in the statewide Department of Children’s Services permanency specialist meetings
  • Using Facebook with daily postings to share news, links, program information, and compelling stories
  • Posting information around the community at regional Department of Children’s Services offices

Staffing

  • 1 program director
  • 1 client intake coordinator
  • 1 resource center coordinator
  • 2 clinical managers
  • 17 family therapists

Both adoptive parents and youth who were adopted participated in a video used in the pre-adoption training. Adoptive parents serve as mentors to other adoptive parents and provide peer support through support group.

Training Requirements

  • Staff receive ongoing training on key adoption issues, with a special focus on Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency. (See page 211 of Support Matters (PDF – MB) for information on the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency model.)
  • Master’s level clinicians must have five years’ experience working in the public child well-being system, demonstrate some mastery of attachment-based treatment modalities, and have knowledge of unique needs of adoptive families. Clinicians also receive 80 hours of program orientation before working with clients in the field.
  • Clinicians are expected to participate in the Center of Excellence’s Learning Collaboratives around the state, which introduce and advance the latest treatment protocols such as Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Evaluation and Outcomes

Evaluation Design

In addition to tracking the numbers and types of families served and case outcomes, Adoption Support and Preservation does a number of assessments before and after treatment that are used during casework and to help the family during discharge planning. The assessments include a parental stress index, traumatic stress index, and child behavior checklists.

Key Finding

Families receiving Adoption Support and Preservation services have a disruption rate (before finalization) of just under 7 percent and a less than 2 percent dissolution rate (after finalization).

Approximate Annual Budget for Services Described

Just under $2 million; past program funding was as high as $3 million

Funding

The program is funded through a contract with the Tennessee Department of Children and Families, using federal Title IV-B, Part 2 funds.

Partnerships Required or Recommended

  • The program is a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the funded agencies.
  • The program also partners with the statewide and regional foster and adoptive care associations for the purposes of providing educational forum opportunities, conference involvement and support, and strategizing on how best to support families.
  • Several churches provide meeting space for support groups, adoption preparation classes, and other training events.

Challenges

Pre-adoption training is not required by the state, which means many families do not voluntarily participate in class offerings. As a result, many of them do not have the information they need before
an adoptive placement.

Background and Future Directions

The Adoption Support and Preservation network was founded in 2004, after settlement of a class action lawsuit (Brian A) required the creation of a post-adoption support program. Program design was guided by a needs assessment of adoptive families.

In the beginning, the program offered services only after adoption, but program leaders soon discovered that earlier involvement was better for children and their families. Staff then developed and added the adoption preparation training.

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