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Develop and Support Families

Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections (APAC)

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

Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections is a statewide program offering services from recruitment and training to post-adoption support.

Population Served        

All members of all types of adoptive families in Alabama; some services are also available to foster and kinship care families, prospective adopters, and professionals working with adoptive, foster, and kinship care families.

Each year, the program serves about 2,000 families. In 2011–2012, the program served 5,040 parents and children.

Theory of Change

Providing support, information, and resources can empower adoptive families to successfully respond to adoption-related challenges and build stronger bonds within adoptive families.

Provider

Children’s Aid Society operates the program. Services are provided through a central office in Birmingham, three regional offices, and one satellite office.

Role of Public Child Welfare Agency

The Alabama Department of Human Resources provides funding and oversight for the program, and was a partner in program design and implementation.

Key Service Components

  • Information, support, and referral — Through a toll-free help line or website inquiry response, program staff answer adoption-related questions, provide information, and make referrals if needed.
  • Support groups — Twenty monthly groups throughout the state provide adoptive parents an opportunity to support one another and receive emotional and informational support from trained therapists. Children have separate groups, also guided by trained therapists. Child care is provided if needed.
  • Family adjustment counseling — Depending on their needs, families with adoption-related concerns can receive short-term, ongoing, or crisis counseling services provided by licensed therapists who are adoption experts.
  • Adoptive family mentor — Adoptive parents who prefer private, one-on-one information and support over group meetings or counseling are matched with experienced adoptive parents who provide support by phone.
  • Lending library — Housed in three locations around the state, the library has more than 4,000 books, fact sheets, DVDs, CDs, and other resources related to adoption and special needs. Resources are mailed and returned free of charge.
  •  Training — APAC offers free webinars monthly to hundreds of families and professionals and, on request, offers on-site group trainings on adoption topics. Up to 300 child welfare professionals attend an annual permanency conference. Twice a year, APAC brings in nationally known adoption experts to educate a trained therapist network.
  • Special events — During the year, APAC offers a variety of informal gatherings for adoptive families to get to know and support one another, including holiday parties, family fun days with children’s activities, movie night, skating or bowling parties, picnics, and three- or four-hour respite events.
  • Camp APAC — Each year about 140 adopted children ages nine to 18 (and their birth or foster siblings) are able to attend a four- day summer camp. Camp is free for families who have adopted at least one child from foster care.

Outreach Efforts

  • APAC mails a quarterly newsletter to all the families it serves and the professionals on its mailing list.
  • Email notices and postcards remind adoptive families of support group meetings and special events.
  • Children’s Aid Society uses its website, Facebook page, blog, and Twitter feed to publicize events and share information and opinions.
  • APAC exhibits at community events, health fairs, conferences, school activities, and other child service agency events.
  • Other outreach includes participating in TV or radio talk shows, newspaper calendar postings, magazine ads, sharing human interest stories in the media, speaking at public welfare agency adoption preparation panel meetings, and participating in other child welfare agency committees.

Staffing

Post-adoption staff — 15 full-time equivalent:

  • 10 licensed social workers, with master’s degrees in social work
  • 2 licensed counselors
  • 1 program coordinator
  • 2 regional coordinators
  • 1 administrative coordinator
  • 1 marketing specialist

Adoptive parents help lead support groups, along with licensed therapists. Other program staff include adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, and a sibling in an adoptive family.

The social workers and counselors in the post-adoption program have at least five years of experience.

Pre-adoption service staff — 6 full-time equivalent:

  • 3 licensed social workers, all with master’s degrees and more than 10 years of experience
  • 4 support staff

Training Requirements

All staff receive ongoing continuing education. Social workers and counselors are required to have 15 hours of training per year to maintain their license. APAC provides general training on adoption laws and issues, diversity, crisis intervention, and other work-related needs.

Trainings are provided based on staff needs and feedback. Staff are also encouraged and supported to pursue their individual training requirements.

Evaluation and Outcomes

Evaluation Design

Each service is evaluated separately to determine if clients received what they needed or increased their knowledge of how to handle a particular adoption issue. Clients provide feedback through a survey after individual services are provided. The agency tracks the numbers of services provided, number of clients served, and number of families served, along with the survey results for quality of services.

Key Findings

In fiscal year 2012–2013:

  • 94.6 percent of survey respondents participating in an adoption-related training reported that they received knowledge that helped them better understand or manage an adoption-related issue.
  • 93 percent of survey respondents attending adoptive family support groups reported receiving emotional support and improved family functioning as a result of attending the group.
  • 100 percent of survey respondents receiving adoptive family adjustment counseling reported improved family functioning at exit.
  • 100 percent of survey respondents with children attending Camp APAC reported that camp had a positive impact on their child and family.
  • 95 percent of professionals who participated in a webinar training reported gaining knowledge that will improve their skills in working with adoptive and foster families.

Approximate Annual Budget for Services Described

$2 million

Funding

The program is funded primarily through a contract with the Alabama Department of Human Resources. About 75 percent of the contract funds are federal funds, including Title IV-B funds and Adoptive Incentive payments. State funds come primarily from the state’s general fund. Children’s Aid Society also receives United Way funds.

Partnerships Required or Recommended

  • Children’s Aid Society and the Alabama Department of Human Resources designed the program together and are partners in its implementation.
  • Program staff also partner with Heart Gallery Alabama for recruitment events, public awareness events, and conferences.
  • The Alabama Foster & Adoptive Parent Association and APAC partner by exhibiting at each other’s conferences and providing training at conferences.
  • APAC also partners with other child-placing agencies for outreach awareness and provision of training for the agencies’ foster and adoptive families.

Challenges

  • Reaching families to inform them of services
  • Cutbacks due to economic constraints
  • Impact of contract cycles (staff retention, changes in staff roles, budget changes)

Background

Congress mandated funding for adoption promotion and support in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. The Alabama Department of Human Resources made the decision to use these funds to develop a long-needed post-adoption services program. A 15-member Adoption Advisory Committee — with adoptive parents and representatives from county and state departments of human resources, mental health/mental retardation, and education — came together to identify specific services that would respond to the needs of adoptive families after finalization.

The committee recommended the post-adoption services that, beginning in 2001, were provided through contracts with Children’s Aid Society. Pre-adoption services were added in 2007 when the state increased efforts to find permanent families for children in foster care. APAC has found that connecting with families sooner — at recruitment and during the home study process — is better for families and can improve their outcomes.

Learn More

Deb Hawk Finley, program director, Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections: 205-259-3778

Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections website

Sources

Deb Hawk Finley, interview, July 25, 2013.

Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections website, accessed July 30, 2013.

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